Large-scale operation after severe truck accident

Category: National Firefighting Team of the Year

Fire department: Volunteer Fire Department Lehrte, Lower Saxony (Germany)

The operational area of the Volunteer Fire Department Lehrte, the motorway junction between the A2 and A7, is among Germany's busiest traffic points. Between October 2015 and September 2016, the team left its base for 35 missions. The balance: 51 involved trucks, 5 vans, 12 cars, 40 people injured, 3 dead. This is exactly why the Volunteer Fire Department Lehrte especially promotes the education and training of its members – and why it also invests in its own vehicle concept, which is adapted for use in road accidents. The result is a physically and mentally resilient, well equipped team. These conditions served the Volunteer Fire Department Lehrte well even during one of their most difficult missions in spring 2016.

Truck driver massively trapped

The alarm reached the team on 12 April 2016 at around 12:50 p.m. On the A2 between Hämelerwald and Lehrte-Ost, a truck driver had seen the end of the traffic jam too late and drove into it without braking. In doing so he rammed the two 40-tonne trucks ahead of him into each other, completely trapping himself in his own cab as well. When the Volunteer Fire Department team reached the scene, all three lanes were blocked by debris and goods, steel pipes and feed pellets. The pellets were a particular problem. They lay approximately 30 cm in height on the motorway and behaved similarly to snow. This made them a great physical challenge for the team members.

Lehrter vehicle concept impresses during recovery

After the team members were convinced that no trucks were loaded with dangerous goods, they focussed solely on rescuing the severely injured truck driver. Because his cab had wedged into the trailer of the truck in front of it, the team requested equipment and a crane from the Hannover professional fire department. Thanks to the Lehrter vehicle concept, however, this equipment did not end up being needed. With its two nearly identical HLFs, the teams could work in parallel from the driver and passenger sides. First, the crew members removed the door using a spreader and pushed the cab forward with a rescue cylinder. Subsequently, the front was also pushed forward by a further rescue cylinder before the team could remove several parts of the console. After about 45 minutes and with the help of three rescue sets with several hydraulic cylinders, the Volunteer Fire Department was able to remove the seriously injured driver. Altogether, an ELW, HLF-T, HLF-B, HLF Hämelerwald with 24 forces as well as the equipment from the Hannover professional FD, a rescue service with two NEFs, three ambulances, two rescue helicopters as well as numerous police forces helped accomplish the operation.

Why so many accidents occur on this part of the A2 was even clearer after this mission. The open-cell asphalt surface is particularly vulnerable to gas or oil. Liquids seep into the gaps and increase the danger of skidding on smooth, oily surfaces. After the bad truck accident in Lehrte, the pavement on both accident spots was milled and renewed before being reopened for traffic.