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Off the Bridge Recovery

0 73b4bBy Jim "Buck" Sorrenti

Jeremy Procon is the president and owner of Interstate Towing in Massachusetts. He started the company in 1999 with just one truck, and has since become one of the leading towing and recovery providers in the area. Interstate now has four locations, including Springfield, Westfield, Agawam, and Sturbridge, with a corporate headquarters in Chicopee.

On Jan. 24, 2019, Interstate was called to a two-vehicle crash that resulted in one vehicle going over the rail of a Westfield bridge. The crash occurred at about 10:14 a.m. after a pickup truck hit the car on Route 20, sending it over the side of the bridge, into the Westfield River approximately 50 feet below. Police reported that the pickup truck driver may have had a medical emergency just before the crash. The bridge, known as the Massachusetts Air National Guard Bridge, is located just west of Union Street.

"We were dispatched to respond with a rotator immediately to Route 20 Westfield River bridge for a vehicle in the water," Procon said. "We immediately dispatched our 2015 60-ton Jerr-Dan rotator Unit 810 along with our 2017 International 27-foot box truck heavy crash support Unit 58 loaded with everything that may be needed for a water recovery including dry suits, float bags and waders. We dispatched our 2019 Peterbilt/Jerr-Dan flatbed Unit 472 for the final transport to secure storage."

Westfield Police and Fire Department personnel were on scene when the Interstate team arrived. They were advised that a couple of good Samaritans had rescued a 79-year-old man from the crash.

One bystander saw the accident and had leapt into action. He went down the embankment, jumped in the raging waters and yelled up to another bystander to grab a ladder off his work truck. He used the ladder to get the driver out by putting it under the car so it wouldn't move. The 79-year-old driver wasn't able to move or speak, so the rescuer dragged him out to safety. The driver was rushed to Baystate Medical Center.

The crew from Interstate prepared to retrieve the car from the fast-moving waters of the Westfield River. The casualty was a Buick Lucerne CXL.

"Once we secured the scene," Procon said, "we discussed the recovery approach. The most efficient way was to place the Jerr-Dan 60-ton rotator on the bridge and send twin lines down to a continuous loop attached to the vehicles sub-frame. It was pretty far down there, about 50 feet. The river was swollen by the rain and melting snow and the water current was rushing really bad."

Justin Baker, Operator 251, climbed onto the vehicle with the water rushing beneath him while he secured the continuous loops. Brian McNally, Operator 112, spotted Justin with a rescue rope in case he was to fall into the water. They signaled with Jerr-Dan headsets to begin the extraction. Jeff Procon, Operator 34, was working the Jerr-Dan rotator from 50 feet above communicating with Justin, Brian and fire officials to make for a safe recovery.

"Once the vehicle was placed on the roadway, we did a smooth roll onto its wheels and secured the leaking fluids with oil booms. Police did an inventory and inspection," said Jeremy. "The vehicle was then placed onto our Jerr-Dan flatbed Unit 472 for transport and secure storage."

Jeremy stated, "Fortunately, the driver is okay thanks to the good Samaritans. Great teamwork done by our crew with the Westfield Fire and Police Departments made this a successful recovery."

Editor's Note: Look for the full story in an upcoming issue of American Towman Magazine.

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Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim "Buck" Sorrenti at ; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!
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MANUFACTURERS SPOTLIGHT: Jerr-Dan 8 ½ Ton Multi Car Carrier

--Charles Duke
By Don Lomax
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Editor: Charles Duke
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