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Firefighters free trapped horses in Bypass accident

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Firefighters free trapped horses in Bypass accident

A winch and a makeshift harness helped free the animals from the mangled trailer.

Photos contributed/

POSTED June 30, 2017 11:41 p.m.

A call of a vehicle over the side of the embankment on the Highway 120 Bypass isn’t a rarity for emergency responders from the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District and the Manteca Fire Department who are well versed with the scenario.
But on Friday, brainstorming the best way to free two horses trapped inside of a travel trailer that had rolled over became a multi-agency effort to prevent the distressed animals – who were discovered with compromised airways – from suffering any additional injury or even death.
According to LMFD Battalion Chief Larry Madoski, the district’s technical rescue program proved to be invaluable in facilitating a way to free the trapped animals without causing any more damage to them or putting the safety of emergency personnel into jeopardy while working with the large, injured and skittish creatures.
“These calls are certainly a challenge because it’s not something that we train for specifically – we’re training for fires and medical calls and the new increased scope for EMS dealing with overdoses and anaphylactic shock,” Madoski said. “But you get on scene and you see that you have two horses that are in a dangerous position and an owner that is distraught and other people who are distraught you have to stop and think about how it is that you’re going to deal with a situation like this to create the best outcome.
“Luckily the Lathrop Manteca Fire District has a technical rescue program where we have 10 folks strategically and specifically trained to deal with these types of rescues, and with their expertise were able to successfully free the animals without any additional major injuries to them.”
According to Madoski, horses by nature are naturally skittish animals and can become spooked very easily – especially when the trailer they are riding in rolls down the side of a freeway and pins them inside. Part of what crews had to figure out was how to keep the horses calm so that they didn’t thrash inside of the trailer, which had sharp metal edges protruding from the accident and the subsequent work to cut the roof off to access the two horses.
By utilizing a winch to pull the trailer apart from the animals and custom-building a harness and hauling system on the fly to secure the animals as they were slowly removed, emergency personnel – which also included the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol in addition to LMFD and Manteca Fire – the two horses were able to be removed with only minor injuries from the accident.
A veterinarian was on route from Lodi but was not able to make it before the decision was made to pull the horses out of the trailer because of their compromised breathing.
“This isn’t the first time that our technical rescue team has had to respond and play a role in rescuing a horse – this is actually the fourth and as long as everything holds, they will all have been successful,” Madoski said. “It was important that we had a rescue unit on hand today that was equipped with the tools that we needed to get this job done – I think having Rescue 30 on scene today was paramount to the survival of those horses.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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