Big rig rescue draws international attendance

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2018


While they tend to be rare in eastern North Carolina, collisions involving 18-wheelers bring their own set of concerns. The mass and size of these vehicles complicate the techniques used by rescue workers to stabilize them and extricate victims. Beaufort County Community College is offering a class, Big Rig Rescue, on March 23 and 24 with Billy Leach Jr., and Leach’s reputation as an expert in the field has drawn interest from across the country—and internationally.

Not only has Leach co-authored a book on the subject, he has presented at the Fire Department Instructor Conference, Firehouse Expo, Fire Department of New York’s Technical Rescue School, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Ed Hampton is also teaching the class. The former member of the Winston-Salem Rescue Squad and chief for the Charlotte Life Saving Crew received the Rescue of the Year Award for saving the life of a Mecklenburg County police officer impaled by rebar. The class will be held at Woolard Towing Service, thanks to their generosity in offering a space more suitable for the class. Paratech, Turtle Plastics and Safe Industries are all sending equipment to help facilitate the class.

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Big rig rescue classes are rare, in part because experts like Leach are rare, meaning that when a class is offered, it garners the interest of firefighters across the country. A hundred firefighters from Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia and all over North Carolina are registered for the class. The class even sparked attention in Canada, with participants coming from Ontario and Quebec.

The class will look at 18-wheeler and cement mixer overturns and underrides—when a small vehicle slides underneath the rear of a truck’s trailer. Johnny Williams, director of fire programs at BCCC, had previously worked with Leach when he taught a vehicle extrication class at the Bunyan Volunteer Fire Department.

“He has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to big rig rescue,” said Williams. “These situations involve different cut points and techniques for lifting.”

Williams said that all departments have had to deal with such situations at least once. “You might not see one for a while, but in December of 2016, my volunteer department dealt with two within a week of each other.”

Vehicle extrications involve a lot of physics equations and critical thinking. Participants were asked to bring calculators along with their fire gear. Williams will be excited to see these different departments come together and problem-solve such tricky situations.

“It should be a great weekend for everybody.”