By HEATHER NELLIS
TOWN OF FLORIDA -- Officials said eastbound traffic was temporarily stopped on the state Thruway Thursday afternoon to make way for a LifeNet chopper. It landed on the highway to lift a motor vehicle crash victim to the hospital.
A Niskayuna Glass pickup truck rear-ended a tractor-trailer at 2:24 p.m. in an eastbound lane between Fultonville and Amsterdam, officials said. The impact caused the pickup truck driver's legs to pin so tightly beneath the dashboard, it took 50 minutes for firefighters from the towns of Florida and Glen, and the city of Amsterdam to cut him out.
"He's got some very serious injuries to his lower extremities," said GAVAC operations manager Mickey Swartz. "I don't think the injuries are life-threatening, but he definitely sustained some major trauma."
The tractor-trailer driver was not injured, Swartz said.
Florida Fire Chief Steve Anderson said his assistant chief reported all three departments' sets of the Jaws of Life were used to remove the driver from the pickup truck.
"He was really pinned in there because of the impact," said Amsterdam Battalion Chief Peter McNamara. "It was time consuming to get him out, because he had some pretty bad injuries, and we had to make sure each time we cut, that we weren't impinging him."
Swartz said the circumstances weren't unusual considering the speed of travel on the Thruway.
"I hate to say we're used to it, but we definitely know what to expect for these incidents on the Thruway. It's been the norm for the last three we've had out there," Swartz said. "They're all pretty much the same entrapment, same injuries."
When officials realized it would be a lengthy extrication, Swartz put the LifeNet helicopter on standby, as its base is just minutes from the scene.
"We didn't want to use a remote landing at an exit because it complicates things for transport," Swartz said. "Ten minutes before they got him out, we had them launch."
The helicopter landed in the eastbound lane at the scene in a landing zone coordinated by Thruway Authority staff.
Anderson said traffic was stopped at least 20 minutes while the helicopter landed and loaded the unnamed male victim.
Swartz added that GAVAC regularly hosts Thruway Authority officials to receive presentations about responding to wrecks on the highway.
"We learn about the importance of not shutting down the Thruway unless we absolutely need to," Swartz said. "Thruway Authority crews actually play a significant role at these crashes. They're not just maintenance crews, they're trained safety personnel. They respond to divert traffic, and do lane squeezes to make sure our operations are safe."
Authorities cleared the scene just before 4 p.m. Thursday, according to scanner alerts.
Thruway Authority workers and a state trooper would not let a reporter remain at the scene upon arrival.
Thruway police spokesman Jason Jones said details of the crash were not available late Thursday afternoon, so he couldn't comment on who caused it, or whether anyone was ticketed. There was no information on the online blotter about the incident by late Thursday.