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HERMITAGE, Pa. (AP) — A horrific crash that claimed the life of a young woman from Hermitage led to some specialized training a year later for local first responders.

The training at the Hermitage City Garage complex on Virginia Road focused on accidents involving large vehicles, such as tractor-trailers or school buses.

“Any time you have an accident on the road involving a heavy vehicle, the chances of someone being entrapped or having a fatality climbs exponentially,” said John Flynn, Hermitage fire chief.

The training was made possible through the fundraising efforts of the Chelsea Rowe Rescue Fund. The non-profit organization was created by six friends of Chelsea Rowe, who died after her car was hit by a semi on Sept. 10, 2016.

Hermitage firefighters responded to the scene on state Route 18 in South Pymatuning Township, where they worked to free the 27-year-old woman from her wrecked car.

Rescue fund founding member Cara Riffe said Rowe was en route to Riffe’s home when the accident happened, and she heard the crash from her house.

Riffe said she walked to the scene, where she realized first responders were working to save her friend.

“Watching them, I knew how hard it was for them, yet they did anything they could to save her,” Riffe said.

Their efforts stuck with Riffe and with Rowe’s other friends who wanted to do something to honor her and to thank those who tried to save her.

Fellow founder Wendy Gill said initially the group thought of donating a tool or a piece of equipment, but Flynn recommended they raise funds for training, which would benefit first responders from multiple departments.

Using Facebook as their main means of spreading the message, Gill said they began receiving donations from local businesses, golf courses, bars and others who wanted to help the fund meet its goal.

“People came out of the woodwork to help us,” Gill said.

The result was a weekend of training for nearly 75 area firefighters from more than a dozen departments. Firefighters could sign up for either weekend day since identical sessions were offered each day.

“That allows for more hands-on involvement versus having all 75 at the same time,” said Todd Taylor, the top trainer for Advanced Resource Solutions, the Tucson, Arizona-based, company that provided the training.

Locally donated semi-truck cabs, a school bus and cars were used to create realistic accidents that firefighters might encounter.

“This really is one of the best re-creation of accidents that I’ve seen,” Taylor said.

No two accident scenes are identical, Taylor said, which makes training even more important.

“We can’t teach that there’s only one way to do this,” he said of freeing and treating accident victims. “If one way doesn’t work in extricating someone in a wreck, the training teaches them that there’s a Plan B.”

Safely freeing someone trapped in a vehicle is certainly important, but speed also is essential, Taylor said.

“The longer it takes to extricate someone from a vehicle, it reduces their chance for survival,” he said. “Our goal is to have the injured person removed from a wreck and onto the operating table within one hour.”

Various tools available for firefighters at the training sessions included something as simple as a chain up to huge low-pressure air bags that can be pumped high enough to upright a truck.

“The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more opportunities you have,” Taylor said of rescue work.

Firefighters said they were happy for the opportunity to polish their skills.

“Working with large, very heavy vehicles is such a different animal from a regular car wrecks we see,” Flynn said. “We didn’t get taught one thing. We got taught a lot of things we can use from here on out.”


Herald Business Editor Michael Roknick contributed to this story.




Information from: The Herald,