The Georgia State Patrol is investigating a three-vehicle wreck Thursday morning in Richmond Hill.
Three people were injured in the crash, including one victim who had to be airlifted to Memorial University Health Medical Center in Savannah, according to Bryan County Emergency Services Director Freddy Howell. The other two were taken by ambulance - one to St. Joseph's and the other to Memorial. The victims’ identities have not been released.
The wreck happened southeast of the Timber Trail Road intersection at Highway 144, right in front of the Richmond Hill Church of Christ.
Firefighters with the Richmond Hill Fire Department were among the first to respond after getting the call the call at 7:11 a.m. Less than a minute later, the first RHFD unit was on scene for rescue and extrication, according to RHFD Lt. Jordan Johnson.
Firefighters used hydraulic spreaders known as the “jaws of life” to rescue a victim in a black Grand Marquis sedan. Another victim was in a two-door white Honda Civic.
Johnson described heavy damage to that vehicle.
“The other vehicle was a very entailed extrication. It took multiple tools,” Johnson said. “We rolled multiple trucks. We put two rescue pumpers on scene with two complete set of tools to start extricating the patient out the side of the vehicle.”
The third vehicle in the wreck was a black pickup truck.
“It was very much involved in the wreck, but we were able to access the patient without cutting on the vehicle,” Johnson said.
Law enforcement completely shut down both directions of traffic to bring in the helicopter.
RHFD arranged the landing site for the helicopter between the Richmond Hill History Museum and the church.
“Once the patient was removed from the vehicle, liftoff was approximately two minutes later,” Johnson said.
Johnson estimated only a small percentage of wrecks were of this complexity.
“But we have all the tools and equipment to handle a tough extrication like that,” Johnson said.
Richmond Hill Fire Department Sgt. Lee Newton was first to respond to the call and quickly assessed the scene before calling for additional support. Newton worked with Bryan County EMS and police to triage patients and find out which was the most critical.
“We just put our training to work,” Newton, a 10-year RHFD veteran said. “We train very well.”
Johnson added, “What looks chaotic to an average citizen is kind of everyday work for us because we do train on it so well.”
It took about four hours for police to clear the roadways, according to social media updates from the Richmond Hill Police Department. But Johnson said the department still had the personnel to work the accident and staff the stations for incoming calls.
“So, the city never lost fire coverage,” he said. “Even though we had three units on scene, we still had fire coverage the whole time.”
Other responders included Lt. Sean Curry, Firefighter Jacob Cribbs and Firefighter Ben Edwards.