Responders risk lives to free man pinned under overturned fuel truck
by Chris Harris Commonwealth Journal
Sloans Valley —
As an emergency responder for almost three decades, Doug Baker has seen it all. Yet what happened early Thursday morning in Sloans Valley managed to surprise even him.
“I saw a bunch of guys do something that was completely heroic,” said Baker, chief of the Somerset-Pulaski County Special Response Team (Hazmat), and captain of the local rescue squad organization. “They went above and beyond.”
The actions of responders to rescue a McCreary County man trapped underneath a tanker truck on South U.S. 27 near Sloans Valley placed them in harrowing conditions, but resulted in saving his life.
Lucas Gregory, 24, of Whitley City, was flown to Lexington for treatment of injuries sustained in the Thursday morning accident.
According to Pulaski County Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson, responders were paged out at about 4:30 a.m. to a report of a wreck with entrapment.
A Cumberland Lake Shell gasoline tanker had overturned approximately six miles south of Burnside and gone over a 36-foot embankment.
The driver, Gregory, told responders that he had swerved to miss an animal and the tanker caught the guardrail, causing him to go over the hill, according to Daniel Karriker, assistant chief of the Somerset-Pulaski County Rescue Squad.
The truck ended up on its top, perched precariously on top of a cluster of trees that it had knocked over. The tanker full of gas presented a hazardous scenario — the possibility of an explosion.
Meanwhile, gasoline was pouring out from the ruptured tanker and pooling underneath the truck, in some places a couple of feet deep.
“When we got to him, the truck was still hot, as far as electric (systems),” Karriker said. “The lights were still flashing.”
Baker said that the Tateville Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene shortly after the call-out, and brought their foam system to help contain any potential fires that could erupt from the vehicle.
About five members of the Rescue Squad, including Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson, and three Tateville firefighters, went underneath the vehicle to pull Gregory from the cab.
“Tiger and the guys went under that truck, lying in gasoline, in 4 degree weather, being sprayed with water and foam, and stayed under there for about 45 minutes cutting the guy out,” said Baker. “In my whole career, I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The extrication took place around 5:30 a.m. Gregory was then airlifted to the University of Kentucky Medical Center for treatment of internal injuries and broken bones.
The last GPS reading from the truck was about 3:30 a.m., noted Baker, so it’s possible that Gregory had been stuck underneath the truck for a substantial amount of time before help arrived.
Baker said that Gregory is in serious but stable condition following the accident.
The road was shut down all morning and afternoon as crews at the scene removed the truck and cleaned up the spill. It finally re-opened to traffic in the evening.
Robinson said that the truck was carrying approximately 8,250 gallons of fuel.
The Special Response Team, Rescue Squad, Tateville Volunteer Fire Department, Kentucky Fire Marshal’s Office, Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement, Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department, and the Kentucky Environmental Response Team all responded to the scene. The state SAFE Patrol brought salt and sand to help reduce slickness on the roadway.