WOLFEBORO — A bridge construction worker run over by the company truck he had been driving and dragged into a brook last week is lucky to be alive, according to authorities.
Wolfeboro Fire Chief Norm Skantze said a co-worker of the injured man heroically jumped into the frigid waters of Heath Brook and kept his partner’s head above water until the fire department could arrive.
Wolfeboro Chief of Police Dean Rondeau confirmed the Feb. 4 incident which occurred just before 8 a.m. on Pleasant Valley Road, involved a collision between an unmanned vehicle and a worker but said he was unable to release the identity of the man citing the N.H. Driver Privacy Act.
A call to the man’s employer R.M. Piper Inc., of Plymouth, asking to speak with the worker who came to the aid of the injured man was not returned.
According to Skantze, several factors contributed to the victim’s survival.
Key among them was quick action by a co-worker.
The accident occurred in a remote section of town at a time when little traffic would have been passing by, he said. While the fire department normally has a three-man crew on duty, a fourth firefighter happened to have stopped at the station when the call came in providing extra manpower.
While the water was not very deep, Skantze said the combination of the air and water temperatures made hypothermia likely, so firefighters donned cold water rescue suits that provide both insulation and flotation.
Skantze credits department members with their quick thinking to use an aluminum ladder as a fulcrum.
The victim who suffered trauma to his lower extremities was strapped to a backboard that was then affixed to a ladder with webbing. The injured man was then levered up and pulled to safety in a technical rescue that spanned about 12 minutes.
Stewart’s Ambulance quickly stabilized and transported the victim to Huggins Hospital, just about two miles away. The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Air Rescue Transport helicopter then flew him to Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.
“The other person acted so quickly to lift him up and let him breathe. Everything went right for his recovery,” said Skantze.
A spokesman for the Concord Office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed the agency is investigating the incident as is the N.H. Department of Labor. R.M. Piper, which has been in business for 36 years, began work to replace the bridge on Nov. 25.
A spokesman for Wolfeboro Public Works Director Dave Ford said the subsequent work stoppage at the construction site is a result of the weather and is not connected to the accident. The precast beams have been set and work is scheduled to resume about the second week of March when temperatures warm creating better conditions for concrete to be poured and properly cure. Because of the mild winter work is actually ahead of schedule, the spokesman said.