Firefighters Rescue Man 30 Feet Up In A Tree

Michael Heller
Firefighters and EMS volunteers do not have to worry about losing pension-like benefits during COVID-19, thanks to new legislation.
The paramedic dressed the man’s head wound once firefighters got him into the elevation platform on the tower ladder. Independent/Michell Heller

A man suffered a significant head injury while doing work 30 to 40 feet up in an oak tree in East Hampton and was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital after being rescued from the tree on Saturday morning.

The East Hampton Fire Department used its tower ladder to reach the semi-conscious man April 25, according to Chief Gerard Turza Jr. The man, whom the chief described as a landscaper performing tree work in the old section of the Oakview Highway trailer park just after 9 AM, was wearing a rope safety system that stopped him from falling when he was hit in the head by a large branch he cut above him.

His fellow workers on the ground called 911. The East Hampton Village Ambulance Association and East Hampton Town police received the call first and quickly asked for help from the fire department. From the ground, the chief could see that the man, slumped over, was bleeding. The man’s name was not released.

“As he started to regain consciousness, he was starting to fumble around with it, and our fears were he was going to disconnect himself from the safety rope,” Turza said. They tried to shout out up some simple commands, in Spanish, as the man only spoke Spanish.

The ladder, which can extend up to 100 feet, hoisted two firefighters and a paramedic with the ambulance association up in the enclosed elevation platform to assess the man and bring him down. Since he was still able to move his legs, they moved him inside the bucket and then disconnect his safety lines.

Emergency medical service personnel treated the man, once on the ground, and then transported him to the airport in East Hampton, where a Suffolk County medical evacuation unit was waiting to fly him to Stony Brook University Hospital, the closest level-one trauma center.

There were several challenges, Turza said, including working in a confined space at a high elevation with a patient who was somewhat combative due to the head injury.

The chief said the two agencies have practiced this kind of scenario, and worked seamlessly together to execute the rescue.

“The fire department does an amazing job,” said Lisa Charde, chief of the ambulance association, “and it really is a privilege working side-by-side with them.”

Another challenge that presented itself was the narrow streets within the trailer park. The ladder truck’s chauffeur did an excellent job navigating the tight street and positioning the truck, Turza said. Fire and police personnel closed off the entire park to traffic during the rescue.

Also, first responders are taking extra precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All firefighters are wearing masks, either N95 or surgical, depending upon the tasks they are performing. In addition, the department had to extensively decontaminate the turnout gear belonging to the two firefighters in the tower platform, as well as an additional firefighter who helped remove the patient from the truck to the ground. The tower platform itself was also decontaminated, along with other equipment, due to the blood.

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