Man freed from under runaway U-Haul |

Man freed from under runaway U-Haul

A Grass Valley man who was pinned under a partially-loaded U-Haul as he tried to stop the runaway truck was freed in a daring rescue Friday afternoon.

William E. Martin, 52, was conscious and airlifted to Sutter Roseville Medical Center after being trapped beneath the tire of the moving van at a residence on the 10000 block of Golden Avenue, south of McCourtney Road near Grass Valley. His condition could not be confirmed at press time.

The truck crushed his legs before an 18-wheel wrecker lifted it away, according to Nevada County Consolidated Fire Protection District Battalion Chief David Ray.

Martin had lowered the ramp on the Ford F450 box truck when it suddenly started drifting forward, according to the California Highway Patrol. He tried to stop the vehicle, but got tangled in the rear wheels in the process, Ray said.

The truck rolled about 30 feet and plowed over a fence until its front tires plunged over a short rock wall, lodging atop it – and Martin’s lower body.

A neighbor heard screaming and immediately called 911, the California Highway Patrol reported. When emergency crews arrived, a panicked crowd of neighbors and family members had circled around the scene.

“He was conscious and in quite a bit of pain, but he did very well,” Ray said. The crowd, however, was “very much in a panic,” he added.

Rescuers kneeling by Martin tried to keep him calm and gave him an IV while a tow truck was on its way.

They couldn’t free him immediately. In crushing accidents like this, “the opportunity of bleeding out is quite high,” Ray said. Rescuers had to be careful how they removed the truck.

Under the direction of incident commander Chief Vern Canon of Nevada County Consolidated, crews started by stabilizing the truck, which was still perched precariously atop the rock wall. They arranged for an ambulance and called a CalStar medical helicopter to stand by.

But the tow truck needed to lift the heavy U-Haul – which was about one-third full of furniture and household items, Ray said – was a giant, 18-wheel wrecker that couldn’t fit into the crowded street. To make room for the truck, parked cars had to be moved – some without keys.

When the truck arrived, crews laced a sling under the front of the U-Haul.

“Everything needed to be in place,” Ray said.

Then the wrecker lifted it from Martin’s body. Paramedics scooped him into an ambulance and rushed him to a helipad, where a CalStar medical helicopter flew him to Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

“Everything went very well,” Ray said. “There was good cooperation among all agencies.”

Three engines, 15 firefighters, 15 medics and 10 law enforcement officers responded to the emergency, Ray said.

“This man was very, very lucky,” Ray said.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

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