It’s a good thing they stopped to update their iPad before heading to the next job. That put an Oklahoma co-op crew on the road a little later—and just in time to help the victims of a head-on car and van crash.
As Roger Salisbury and Ricky Rimpley pulled their truck onto a state highway near Claremore in early September, they could see trouble ahead.
“There were two cars in the road that had a wreck, and there was smoke coming out of one of them,” said Salisbury, lead maintenance lineman at Verdigris Valley Electric Cooperative in Collinsville. “We pulled up and a guy that was already there ran up to our truck and asked if we had a fire extinguisher.”
Those are standard equipment in VVEC trucks, so Salisbury grabbed one extinguisher, Rimpley grabbed another and they headed toward the Mazda.
“Ricky started spraying the fire that was underneath the hood of the car. I started trying to check on the girl in the car. At first I thought she was dead, but I put my hand on her and could tell she was alive but unconscious,” Salisbury recalled.
Rimpley got the fire under control as the men went to check on the other girl, who was trapped in a van, Salisbury said. They noticed one of her legs was severely injured, so they tried to distract her from looking at it.
“But then we noticed the fan motor had fallen out from underneath the dash and it was shorting out, smoking. So we got a pair of pliers and cut the wires to the fan motor and threw it out into the road,” said Salisbury.
Firefighters and ambulance crews eventually made it to the scene and took over.
“They said it was six minutes,” from the time the emergency call was received until they got to the scene, said Rimpley. “But it felt like a lot longer.”
Rimpley said the families of both victims have been keeping him and Salisbury updated on their conditions. The one who had been unconscious spent nearly two weeks on a ventilator in the intensive care unit of a Tulsa hospital. The other was treated for head and leg injuries.
“From the way it sounds all surgeries went well, but they are still in recovery,” said Rimpley, assistant maintenance lineman at VVEC.
Authorities told the Claremore Progress that the juvenile driving the Mazda had crossed the center line then swerved right. The 18-year-old van driver tried to avoid her, but wound up crashing.
“We’re just glad we were able to help and that we had the equipment to be able to do it,” said Salisbury, adding it’s not the first time they’ve helped with a crash.
“A few months ago a wreck happened in front of us at an intersection, and we got out and assisted,” he said. “But it wasn’t anything to this extreme.”
Michael W. Kahn is a staff writer for NRECA.