Firefighters face challenge in freeing truck driver aftershe falls between trailer, ramp
A truck driver escaped serious injury after emergency crews freed her from a precarious situation outside the Meijer store in Grafton last Friday.
A Grafton ambulance, firefighters and police were called to the store, 1600 N. Port Washington Rd., at 4:20 p.m. after the driver became trapped between a semitrailer and a loading dock on the north side of the building.
The driver, a 46-year-old Milwaukee resident, told authorities she tripped and fell into a 12-inch space between the rear ramp of the vehicle and the dock while attempting to open a door on the trailer.
Although the woman was able to move slightly, she could not climb out of the space.
“She was conscious and communicating well, but had an obvious facial injury,” Grafton Fire Chief William Rice said. “She was also suffering from neck and leg pain from the fall.”
When Grafton firefighters and members of a Cedarburg heavy-rescue squad arrived at the scene, they quickly determined the truck couldn’t be moved forward without putting the woman at risk of being crushed, according to Rice.
“We didn’t have the keys to the truck and didn’t know she was the driver at first,” he said. “In any case, we had to come up with another solution.”
Removing the woman from the side or under the trailer wasn’t possible because of limited clearance and obstructions, Rice said.
Rice said wedges were used to hold the wheels of the trailer in place so it would not roll back into the woman or crew members. Crews also placed large block cribs and airbags on both sides of the trailer to prevent any backward movement.
The extrication efforts were further complicated because the loading dock ramp was elevated over the woman’s head, Rice said. That required crews to place cribs under the ramp to keep it from coming down.
In addition to securing the trailer and dock ramp, crews connected a winch to a fire truck in case the trailer would have to be pulled away from the woman.
Crews then wrapped the woman in an improvised sling and placed wood blocks under her feet to raise her closer to the opening. She was lifted through the vertical opening and placed inside the trailer.
After receiving medical attention at the scene, the woman was transported to Aurora Medical Center in Grafton for further evaluation.
“It was a very challenging situation,” Rice said. “We have never had a call like that before and had to figure out something without moving the trailer.
“If the truck had moved backward at all, it would have crushed her. She just fell into a really weird, dangerous spot.”
Rice said crews spent about 40 minutes at the scene. He praised the training and response of firefighters, emergency medical professionals and police.
“You never know what kind of emergency you may be called to,” Rice said.