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'We do it for that one life': Agencies work together to free man from wreckage

Overturned truck on the side of the interstate in Greene County after Wednesday's wreck (WBMA)
Overturned truck on the side of the interstate in Greene County after Wednesday's wreck (WBMA)
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A major crash led to a nine-hour rescue mission on Interstate 59 southbound in Greene County Wednesday.

A tree was down on the interstate, which officials believe led to the crash. A tractor trailer carrying raw chicken was overturned and a man was trapped inside the truck.

It took nine hours of extrication to get the man out, along with a lot of teamwork from all the responding agencies.

"We train all the time for these rare occurrences and something this bad does happen and it all paid off yesterday," said Johnny Lee Davis, flight nurse, PHI Air Medic of Mississippi.

At least 14 agencies at the local, state and federal levels were involved. Many of which were strangers who were working side by side for the first time, but collaborating as if they had worked together for years.

"Everyone operated within their scope, side by side, regardless of rank, command structure, working extremely smoothly, and everybody did what they could in that moment," said Zac Bolding, Greene County EMS director. "From every head of every agency I spoke with, it was probably the longest and most complicated, and extensive heavy rescue operation and medical care operation of a single patient in West Alabama and likely in the entire state."

PHI Air Medic of Mississippi joined first responders across the state. Resources from West and Central Alabama joined forces to make these rescue efforts possible.

"It's even things like the local hospital at DCH knowing we needed more blood products, and they had a police air unit to send us blood to the side of the road because we already used all our supplies," said Josh Bankston, flight nurse medic for Columbus and supervisor for the base.

The blood supply on the scene was exhausted after 4 units were transfused. DCH-Tuscaloosa supplied additional blood, which was flown to the scene by Tuscaloosa Police Department Aviation Unit.

"When they got there, from my understanding, the only thing they could see was his face," said Smith. "They had to take their time cutting very small pieces at a time not to injure him further."

Alabama EMS Medical Director, Dr. Elwin Crawford, coordinated deployment of UAB SWIFT team for possible trauma surgical needs in the field due to prolonged extrication and patient presentation.

"It was a joint process between us and the fire departments to say 'hey this is our next step' and everyone would come back together and say we agree and this is where we need to be," said Bankston.

See Also: Major crash leads to 9-hour extrication on I-59 in Greene County

See Also: Three bodies discovered inside vehicle found in receding Tuscaloosa floodwaters

"They did an amazing job, from the very beginning to the volunteer fire department and EMS getting on the scene until our personnel got to the scene to the moment we got him on to the interstate and even brought him down and put him on the helicopter," said Smith. "It wasn't just one agency that saved the gentleman, it was a multi agency event and I give everyone credit for saving the man's life."

The person was successfully extricated.

Davis described the moment when he was finally freed. He said you could hear the cheers erupting from the marsh they were standing in.

The man was flown by PHI Air Medical to UAB around 1:30 P.M. No field amputation was required during these efforts. The UAB SWIFT team was also able to assess the patient prior to him being flown out.

"That is certainly why we do what we do, and we endeavor to work together and that is exactly what happened yesterday [Wednesday]," said Bolding.

At the end of the day, we do it for that one life.

Emergency Response Agencies Involved:

  • Greene County E-911
  • Eutaw Volunteer Fire Department
  • Greene County EMS
  • Greene County Sheriff's Office
  • Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue
  • PHI Air Medical
  • Alabama Office of EMS
  • UAB SWIFT Team (Surgery forWard Intervention For Trauma)
  • Tuscaloosa Police Department Aviation Unit
  • Alabama State Troopers
  • US Marshall Service
  • ALEA Aviation Unit
  • RAMS Air Medical Unit
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Auxiliary Agencies Involved:

  • Alabama Forestry Commission
  • Alabama Trauma Communications Center (ATCC)
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