By Linda Dillman
The quick actions of an Army National Guard member on his way to work at Rickenbacker and an Obetz police officer helped save the life of a driver during a Sept. 15 accident on Alum Creek Drive.
A school bus transporting five students was stopped at a light southbound on Alum Creek Drive near an exit ramp from I-270 when it was struck in the rear by a white Dodge van around 6:45 a.m.
“The driver of the van was two lanes over when he had a medical emergency, and what is believed, swerved across two lanes and impacted the back end of the bus,” said Obetz Police Officer Eric Baker, who said no one on the bus was injured. “Myself, a sergeant, and a special duty officer responded to the dispatch and arrived before the medic.”
When Baker reached the scene within two minutes of the call, the National Guardsman had pulled the man from the burning vehicle.
A bystander was keeping the driver sitting up on the roadway. Baker, who was also a paramedic for 32 years, saw the man had occasional breaths, so he checked to make sure there were no other victims.
However, the man’s medical condition quickly took a turn for the worse.
“He went into cardiac arrest, so I ran back and got the AED (an automatic external defibrillator used to bring the heart back into rhythm),” said Baker. “I had to shock him and do several rounds of compressions. The fire department arrived and extinguished the fire. A second shock was advised before he was transported to the hospital by the medic.”
Firefighter Richard Lewis said the department responds to “a decent amount” of accidents in that area, averaging one to two a week. He stated traffic in that area is heavy and people often speed on Alum Creek Drive.
In recalling the incident, Lewis said, “The tone went off and stated that there was an auto accident with possible entrapment. This means that the run gets a minimum response of a fire engine, medic, EMS coordinator, battalion chief, ladder truck, and rescue with tools to remove a trapped driver.”
En route, firefighters read notes reporting a van rear-ended a school bus and was on fire.
“When I saw that, my mind instantly started thinking about the possibilities and severity of the incident,” said Lewis. “As we got closer to the scene, I saw a large cloud of black smoke, which clearly indicated that there was indeed a fire. Once we reached the scene, I saw a minivan that rear-ended a school bus and there were flames shooting from the engine compartment of the van charring the back of the school bus where the escape door was located. As we placed our medic in the optimal position for transport, I noticed a man lying on the ground with CPR being performed on him.”
Lewis immediately grabbed a backboard and his partner grabbed a stretcher and they made their way over to the victim.
“Whenever we see CPR being performed after an auto accident, we think that the injuries were most likely mortal and we will probably not get a return of pulse,” said Lewis. “However, the man did not appear to have any outward signs of trauma or burns, as well as no tire marks on the ground. At this point, the probability was that the man had gone into cardiac arrest prior to hitting the bus.”
Lewis said the man was taken to Grant Medical Center where medical personnel were able to stabilize him.
“I believe that the efforts of Officer Baker and the National Guardsman (whom Lewis identified as Sgt. Tarrell Moore) who pulled him from the van were the real heroes who saved that man’s life. It took an immense amount of bravery to risk their own lives in order to help a complete stranger.”
Baker said he used his skills honed as an Air Force flight medic for 20 years and work as a civilian paramedic to respond to the incident. He was quick to credit the fast actions of the National Guardsman and response by the fire department.
“I want to stress that the driver is alive because of a team effort between the Army sergeant, myself, and Hamilton Township Fire,” said Baker, who said he’s talked with the driver a couple of times in person since the incident occurred.
Although Baker has more than three decades of professional familiarity with CPR, he said it is a skill that everyone should learn.
“It’s important—time is muscle,” he said. “The quicker you can get the blood going, the better the outcome.”
For information on local first aid, CPR and AED classes, contact the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org.