March 25, 2012

Responders rush to Waterville crash

Rescue workers quick to react when six-car crash struck

By Ben McCanna
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- The SUV that slammed into four cars at Post Office Square last Sunday created a rare combination of events.

click image to enlarge

CRASH SCENE: The demolished overturned vehicle that Nancy Hazard was driving after she plowed into five vehicles parked at a traffic light in Waterville on Sunday, sending six people to the hospital. Police say she was operating at a high rate of speed on College Avenue.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Probe continues

Waterville Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey said the investigation into the March 18 crash on College Avenue is won’t be complete until later this week or early April.

Nancy Hazard, 42, of Waterville was driving a 2008 Suzuki SX4 at a high speed when she crashed into four vehicles waiting at a stoplight at Post Office Square.

Hazard was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor with serious injuries, but she is conscious and expected to survive, Rumsey said. Investigators are planning to interview her later this week.

Also seriously injured was by Karl Andresen, 69, of Winslow.

The accident, which occurred at about 4:45 p.m. involved six cars and injured six people, and it was serious enough for dispatchers to call all available rescue responders and for a local hospital to issue a special alert.

The scale of destruction, which would have been noteworthy for a highway crash, was especially unusual for 25-mph zone directly in front of the fire station.

And the densely populated downtown location offered bystanders a glimpse into the inner workings of emergency management -- the teams that bring order to chaos.

Fire and rescue

While Nancy Hazard, 42, was speeding south on College Avenue toward the square, Firefighter Alan Boucher was talking to his wife on the phone from inside the fire station. Boucher vividly remembers what happened next.

"I heard a squeal and a bang, and I said a few choice words because it scared me," he said.

Boucher quickly turned toward a window and saw an unlikely sight.

"A vehicle was tumbling through the air," he said.

The vehicle was Hazard's 2008 Suzuki SX4, which several onlookers estimated was traveling more than 70 mph at the time of the crash.

Boucher alerted the other firemen, most of whom are also emergency medical technicians.

A lieutenant rushed out the door with a radio to check people for injuries while 21 others quickly geared up.

"We were there in a matter of seconds," Boucher said.

When the fire station doors opened, the responders saw an otherworldly scene of twisted metal, shattered glass and spilling automotive fluids.

Four vehicles were extensively damaged. Two other cars were also damaged, including one that was pushed into the intersection by a car that was hit by Hazard's SUV.

Chief David LaFountain said firefighters in this case, like any other mass-casualty incident, fell back on their training and followed protocol.

The first priority is making sure the scene is safe, LaFountain said.

The first priority is making sure the scene is safe, LaFountain said.

Rather than focus immediately on the injured, firefighters used their trucks to block north- and southbound traffic to prevent further injuries.

With the area secured, firefighters assessed each patient's injuries and set priorities for their care.

LaFountain said rescue workers need to focus their attention on the most critical injuries until there are enough resources to have at least one emergency medical technician per patient.

Boucher said he and another firefighter went directly to the Suzuki, which was on its side facing the direction it came from. Boucher suspected the driver was more seriously injured than anyone else because her vehicle had flipped and rolled, and because it was soon apparent she hadn't worn a seatbelt.

The SUV was so badly damaged the firemen couldn't immediately reach the driver, so they quickly gathered extrication equipment.

In the meantime, dispatchers in the police department issued an all hands call -- a request for all area rescue personnel to respond to the scene, including off-duty workers. Boucher said all-hands calls are rare. He estimated they happen once or twice a year.

Responders from Delta Ambulance Services were dispatched. Two ambulances arrived with six emergency medical technicians and a supervisor and a third unit was en route from Augusta.

Firefighters secured Hazard's SUV with Junkyard Dogs -- long metal posts that attach to a car's frame to keep it from rolling. Next, the firemen fired up the extrication equipment.

"We just did a quick cut and folded the roof down, then we went in and pulled her out," Boucher said. "From the beginning of the crash until we got her into the ambulance was 10 minutes or less. It was a pretty rapid extrication because of her injuries."

(Continued on page 2)

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