LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC/AP) – A firefighter whose arm was severed from the elbow down 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.
On Wednesday evening, after the initial surgery, Lt. Ryan Emmons of the West Lanham Hills Volunteer Fire Department had to undergo a second procedure to address a small complication, according to the department’s website. As of 10:30 p.m., he was still in the Intensive Care Unit of Baltimore’s Union Memorial Hospital.
The hospital told the department that some veins from Emmons’s leg were taken to rebuild the ones from his severed arm and that the next 72 hours are the most critical in his recovery.
Doctors credit Emmons’ colleagues for saving his arm by wrapping it in ice.
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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