LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC/AP) – A firefighter whose arm was severed when a tractor-trailer collided with his fire engine early Wednesday morning — over-turning three vehicles and snarling traffic for more than 12 hours along the Capital Beltway — underwent extensive surgery to have the arm reattached.
Lt. Ryan Emmons of the West Lanham Hills Volunteer Fire Department was in critical condition as of Wednesday night at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore after undergoing nine hours of surgery to reattach his right arm, ABC 7 reports. The department’s website stated at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday that Emmons went back in for more surgery to treat a small complication.
The surgeon who performed Emmons’ surgery is the same doctor who last month successfully completed a double-arm transplant for a wounded soldier at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, according to the department’s website.
Three other firefighters injured in the crash were treated for minor injuries and were released from the hospital.
The accident occurred just before 3 a.m. on Interstate 495 just south of U.S. 50 in Prince George’s County, but its severity and extensive cleanup efforts closed several lanes in both directions of the Beltway for much of the day. All lanes in both directions were reopened just after 4 p.m.
Prince George’s County fire officials said firefighters from the West Lanham Hills station were called out to assist Maryland State Police with a minor accident on I-495 at about 2:30 a.m.
Once the scene of that accident was cleared, investigators said the firetruck tried to use the emergency vehicle access to make a U-turn along I-495. As the firetruck slowed to make the U-turn it was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, causing both trucks to flip over and strike an SUV on other side of the highway, with parts of the trucks slamming through the Jersey barrier. The SUV also overturned.
“The investigation suggest that as they’re slowing, they were struck by a tractor-trailer,” said Lt. William Alexander of the Prince George’s County police. “That caused a cascading accident.”
A tow truck was able to upright the mangled fire truck shortly before 7 a.m., WNEW’s Kevin Patrick reported.
Officials had hoped to have all lanes reopened by noon, but that deadline passed and lanes remained closed as crews struggled to clear the tractor-trailer from the roadway. The truck began to come apart during workers’ initial attempts to upright it.
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