Monday, October 22, 2012
Around 8:30am the Swedesburg Fire Company (Station 49) and Harmonville Fire Company (Station 44) were dispatched for a vehicle fire after an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike eastbound direction around mile marker 331. As units from these companies went responding Montgomery County Dispatch advised Deputy 49 that EMS was on scene reporting multiple victims trapped in a vehicle. Rescue 47 was immediately requested and would respond with five firefighters, under the direction of Chief Jenaway, entering at the eastbound access gate in front of the Allendale Road station. Utility 47 also responded not far behind the Rescue to supplement with manpower and Squad 47 would eventually make it to the scene after awaiting orders at the access gate. Traffic was completely halted traveling eastbound and the KPVFC units had to navigate cautiously through the congestion. At the same time, Harmonville units were coordinating their response by entering the highway from the Norristown interchange and traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes. The crew from the Rescue and Utility arrived to find a box style truck severely damaged and resting on its side with two victims trapped inside. Other vehicles and multiple victims were also involved including a PA Turnpike vehicle where a worker would later succumb to his injuries.
The firefighters from the KPVFC immediately went to work attempting to extricate the victims in the box truck with Assistant Chief 47-3 (M. Gallagher) being assigned the Rescue Operations Group Leader. Chief Jenaway assisted Deputy 49 at the command post with coordinating incoming units which consisted of ambulances, additional rescue companies and three air medical helicopters. The KPVFC rescuers, working side by side with Harmonville members, cut, pushed, or removed every piece of the vehicle they could to gain access to the victims. The crews eventually tunneled through the rear cargo area to gain the best access to the cab of the box truck. After using high pressure air bags, hydraulic “O” cutters, sawzalls, and a come-a-long from Rescue 47, and nearly 60 minutes later, both victims were removed from the box truck. The victims were transported via medical helicopter, which landed directly on the highway, to a trauma center. The KPVFC units cleared the scene around 11am as the westbound lanes were reopened at the same time and the eastbound lanes remaining closed until 4pm. Fire and EMS units on scene included Swedesburg Fire Company, Harmonville Fire Company, King of Prussia Fire Company, Plymouth Fire Company (for Rescue 43), Fort Washington Fire Company (for Rescue 88), Lafayette EMS, Plymouth EMS, three air medical helicopters and the Pennsylvania State Police.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike worker who was killed in this accident was a long time member of the Jefferson Fire Company (Station 46) of West Norriton Township. Mike San Felice was tragically killed while in the performance of his duties as a Pennsylvania Turnpike employee. Our sincere condolences go out to the members of the Jefferson Fire Company, his family, and his coworkers in this time of mourning. The Jefferson Fire Company can be found at