Training coincides with actual rescue

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta City Fire Department volunteers Cory Burns and Tyler Witherell prepare rigging to rescue four people from a car which plummeted down a 100 foot embankment on Interstate 5 near Castella last Tuesday, April 24.

While emergency responders were in the midst of training in low angle rope rescue techniques last week, they received a call to perform an actual rescue on Interstate 5 south of Castella, where a car had plummeted down a 100 foot embankment.

Three of the four passengers inside the 2011 Chevy Aveo received minor to moderate injuries in the April 24 accident, which was caused by inattentive driving, said California Highway Patrol officer Kim Baldi.

Driver Raymond Kookie Jennings, 67, of Seattle Wash. told CHP?he was looking at one of his passengers when he allowed the Aveo to drift off the northbound Interstate 5 roadway and over the embankment while driving at approximately 60 miles per hour, Baldi reported.

Jennings, as well as passengers Vivian Heller, age 54, and William Thomas, age 7, both of Seattle, were transported to Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta for treatment of their injuries, Baldi said. The fourth passenger, Jaloni Spears, age 9, also of Seattle, was not injured.

Personnel from the US Forest Service station at Sims were the first on scene at about 10:45 a.m., with Dunsmuir/Castella Fire Department, CHP and the Mount Shasta City Fire Department responding soon after. Dunsmuir/Castella Fire Chief Dan Padilla was named the Incident Commander.

Padilla said emergency responders used a rope hauling system to descend rescuers and equipment down the embankment to the injured parties.

Two of the victims were packaged and hauled up the slope to a waiting ambulance, Padilla said. The other two were lowered to a road below.

Baldi said the car never overturned, and all the passengers were properly seatbelts and restrained. The airbag also deployed. All of these factors helped to keep injuries to a minimum.

Padilla said it took less than an hour to rescue all parties from the vehicle.

“This couldn’t have happened at a better time,” said Eric Dyck, Mount Shasta City Fire Department assistant chief. “We had two departments training in the exact scenario that was occurring... The rescuers that responded knew what needed to happen.”

“Members of the Mount Shasta City Fire Department, Mount Shasta Fire Protection District, Weed City Fire, Dunsmuir/Castella Fire Department, Mount Shasta Public Works, Mount Shasta City Hall Employees, US Forest Service, CAL?FIRE, Office of Emergency Services and Mount Shasta Ambulance, Mercy Medical Center and PG&E have been training together to help keep our communities safe,” Dyck said.

Incidents like these are the reason the departments have been training together, Dyck said.

“It is very important that responders train together so that when a emergency happens they all know what each other is doing,” said Dyck.

Several people are pitching in to teach a variety of courses, including Chief Rick Joyce, Fire Captain Matt Hill, Fire Captain Cory Burns, Fire Captain Steven Hitchcock, Battalion Chief Patrick Titus, firefighter Brian Dyck, firefighter Chad Henson, Fire Chief Matt Melo, Assistant Fire Chief Eric Dyck, PG&E, Sam Lanier, and Billy Gansel.

“These guys are either highly skilled in special aspects of the fire service, or they are NWCG (National Wildland Coordination Group) Instructors, CSFM (California State Fire Marshal) instructors California Specialized Training Institute Instructors, FireWhat? instructors, or instructors at College of the Siskiyous,” Dyck said.

Dunsmuir/Castella Fire Department chief Dan Padilla demonstrates how to repel during a rope rescue training exercise last week. While in the midst of the training session, firefighters were called to the scene of an accident where they were able to put these exact skills to the test. They rescued four people from a car which had plummeted down a 100 foot embankment on Interstate 5.