'Extensive, difficult' process was required to get driver out safely after milk tanker overturned in Alexander
The extrication process to remove the injured driver of a tanker truck this afternoon in Alexander was extensive and difficult, according to Tim Yaeger, Genesee County Emergency Services coordinator. The trucker was hauling 60,000 pounds of milk when it rolled over into a wet ditch filled with cattails.
Shortly before noon, Alexander Fire Department was dispatched to 11181 Chaddock Road in Alexander, between Spring Road and the Wyoming County line. The male driver remained conscious, alert and talking throughout but pinned in by the steering wheel, dashboard and a foot or more of earth that the semi-truck rammed into.
"They were both fighting against the vehicle that was damaged and pinning him, as well as working against the dirt where the truck ended up landing," Yaeger said.
The biggest obstacle was coming up with a plan.
"We train a lot for peeling away, and cutting away and spreading away metal. This was a little more complicated because he was trapped by earth as well as metal. So it was a difficulty and just time-consuming."
Asked if groundwater seeping into the cab posed a danger to the trapped driver, Yaeger said no, the concern here, as in any vehicle accident, was the hazard of fire.
He said a lot of equipment was called to the scene. The Alexander fire chief wanted to make sure they had all the resources they needed. More manpower was warranted because of the heat and humidity.
Mercy medics responded along with Attica and their extrication equipment, Bethany, Town of Batavia, Elba's rescue truck, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the county Hazmat Spill Response Team. Stafford fire filled in at Alexander's fire hall.
It took more than an hour to extricate the driver, who was transported by Mercy EMS to ECMC. Although Mercy Flight landed in an adjacent cornfield to transport the patient, it was unable to do so because of a mechanical issue involving the equipment to secure the gurney; so the aircraft returned to the hangar.
He said the spill was significant and included oil and hydraulic fluid in addition to the milk in the tanker; no fuel was seen.
It is “fairly contained.”
A heavy rescue team will offload unspilt product onto another truck to facilitate uprighting the damaged vehicle.
The process will take a couple of hours, possibly up to four hours.
The accident occurred by a curve, but Yaeger could not speculate about what caused the accident, which is under investigation.
"Members and firefighters, medics from several agencies, along with law enforcement worked to get the patient out safely," Yaeger said. “It’s all hands on deck, we’re going to give everything that we could. And they did a fantastic job working as a team.”
Photos and audio of Tim Yaeger courtesy of Alecia Kaus / Video News Service.
UPDATE: Reader-submitted photos.