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Providence FFs Had Everything But Time for Trapped Victim

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  • Providence FFs Had Everything But Time for Trapped Victim

    Journal Staff Writer

    PROVIDENCE -- Late Monday night, the last night of his life, Todd B. Rushworth was where he'd been for more than 15 years.

    He was running a crane for Metals Recycling, working down at the dock at the Port of Providence, loading scrap metal onto a ship.

    Then the crane's 160-foot boom suddenly snapped.

    The boom collapsed onto the ship's deck, and the heavy metal sheaves for the cables slammed down onto Rushworth's lap, pinning him to his seat in the upper control cab. The impact sheared one of two bolts that attached the cab to the crane, sending the cab spinning off to the side and dangling in midair.

    Journal photo / Mary Murphy

    Rushworth, 42, was trapped and bleeding about 50 feet above ground. A worker below called 911.

    For the last hours of Rushworth's life, for as long as he could hear them, the firefighters trying to save him promised him over and over that they would get him out.

    They had everything but time.

    AT 10:18 P.M.,
    the call rang out in the firehouses about a crane tipping over at the Port of Providence. Four fire engines, two ladder trucks, an ambulance, a chief, and special hazards raced to the scene.

    The first firefighters climbed up the crane's narrow ladder to the cab and found Rushworth trapped inside. His head was bleeding and the sheaves were crushing his stomach and right thigh, said special hazards Capt. Paul Thomas.

    Rushworth was having trouble breathing, he said. He looked at the firefighters and pleaded for help.

    "He said, 'Get me out. This is a nightmare,' " said special hazards firefighter Sean Reddy.

    Journal photo / John Freidah
    [From left, Capt. Paul Thomas, Firefighter Sean Reddy and Lt. Bill Kenyon were among the firefighters at the scene.]

    The firefighters were 50 feet in the air, Thomas said, standing on two-rung railings covered in grease and oil, holding onto the unsteady cab. The heavy metal sheaves blocked them from reaching Rushworth from the front, Thomas said. They needed to remove them so they could get him out. They called for a crane to lift the sheaves, and were told one was on its way from Johnston.

    Time was running out.

    They chained the cab to the boom so it wouldn't move as they worked, Thomas said. They called the Coast Guard to keep boats away that could cause wakes and possibly rock the ship and crane.

    Tower Ladder 1 sped down to the scene and raised its platform next to the cab so the firefighters could store their tools as they worked. Seven firefighters clipped harnesses on the rails and around their waists: Lt. Bill Kenyon and David Skaggs from Ladder 1, Joe Vingi from Engine 3, Greg Rich from Engine 13, and Firefighters Robert J. Reilly, Dan Rinaldi, and Reddy from special hazards.

    Cables snarled over their heads and crunched metal hampered them as they moved carefully around the cab. Below them was a cluster of firefighters ready to assist them from the ground.

    The firefighters fitted an oxygen mask over Rushworth's face and ran some intravenous lines to make up for the blood loss, Kenyon said.

    Rushworth didn't moan or cry out in pain, he said. He spoke to them, pleading. I'm trapped, they said he told them. Get me out of here.

    Each of them reassured him.

    "When you're there and you're talking to someone -- 'We're going to get you out of here' -- you're his only hope," Kenyon said. "He looks at you as his savior. . . . And we're talking to him, 'We're going to get you out of here.' "

    But, Thomas added, "we kept hitting all these roadblocks."

    They set up hydraulic rams inside the cab to push the metal sheaves off his body. They've used these tools before to pry apart vehicles smashed in accidents.

    This was different. The rams expanded and the boom shifted, Kenyon said. Afraid that the cab would collapse and send them all crashing to the ground, they stopped the tools.

    Rushworth hung on. So did they. "I think he had faith in us," Kenyon said, "But I think personally he knew he was in trouble."

    They started cutting one side of the cab, trying to make an opening from which they could slide Rushworth through. They draped a tarp over him so he wouldn't be hurt by sparks shooting off the metal, Thomas said. But the sparks caused several small fires in the cab, and they had to spray water on the flames as they worked.

    Rushworth stayed calm. "We're cutting all over him, on the side of him, and he didn't say boo," Reddy said.

    The work was slow and difficult, they said. As they worked, they could see Rushworth slipping out of consciousness, Kenyon said.

    "You're working against the clock, but you can only work as fast as the situation allows," Kenyon said.

    Reddy cut through the metal and reached the control box for the cab. But there was no way to pull Rushworth free from there.

    Rushworth held on for about two hours, enduring as firefighters worked around him. But he soon slumped into unconsciousness, Kenyon said.

    By the time the other crane arrived, Rushworth was dead, Kenyon said.

    The firefighters wrapped his wrists in a handcuff knot and tied them high over his head to the top of the cage, so his body wouldn't fall when the second crane shifted the sheaves away. The firefighters at last pulled Rushworth free.

    They lifted his body into a carrier, which they placed onto the platform of Ladder 1 and lowered it gently to the ground.

    Four hours had passed.

    investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were at the accident scene, searching for clues about why the crane collapsed.

    Kipp Hartmann, OSHA's area director, would say little about the initial probe. OSHA was interviewing witnesses and combing through maintenance and training records, he said. The crane will be dismantled for the investigation, which Hartmann expected would take six months.

    The flags were lowered to half-staff outside the Metals Recycling office at the Port. In a statement, operations manager William Huling thanked the city's police officers and firefighters for trying to save Rushworth. He also said the company was cooperating with the investigation and would take "every possible measure" to prevent such an accident from happening again.

    "This morning, at a meeting of our employees, we informed them of last night's tragedy and reemphasized to them the need to stay focused and maintain their commitment to safety -- both their own personal safety and the safety of others," Huling stated. "This commitment to safety is paramount at our company, and we are determined to maintain it at the highest level. We owe it to our employees, and to Todd's memory, which we honor today."

    Rushworth was an avid outdoorsman, who had lived in Johnston most of his life, until moving to Laurel Drive in Glocester two years ago, according to his obituary. His funeral is tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Anderson-Winfield Funeral Home in Greenville.

    The firefighters who'd tried to save him hadn't even known his name. Some of them remained at work yesterday, taking on an extra shift, although they admitted they were exhausted. It had been the most technically complex job they had ever encountered, Thomas said.

    "The mental fatigue is horrible. It was two to three hours up there trying to think how we're going to save this poor gentleman," Reddy said yesterday afternoon. "Now we're in this second-guessing stage -- what could we have done different?"
    Last edited by CollegeBuff; 07-16-2003, 02:11 PM.

  • #2
    A tip of the leather to the Brothers in Providence, who did their best and despite losing their patient, gave himn the comfort to know that they were there for him, and that he did not die alone.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


    • #3
      This is the same Providence FD that doesn't deserve a new contract for TWO FRIGGIN' YEARS, right?

      Good job guys.


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