Published on Apr 24, 2018 at 10:39a.m.

Menlo Park Fire Protection District - Dramatic Auto extrication in Atherton early Sunday morning shuts down power to many areas of the Town as car shears off power pole trapping two victims inside the vehicle:

Menlo Park Firefighters were dispatched at 3.32 AM early Sunday morning, April 22, 2018, after San Mateo County Public Safety Communications (PSC) received a 911 cell caller reporting that they had heard what sounded like a significant vehicle accident in front of 240 Camino Al Lago, in the Town of Atherton.

Menlo Engine 4 with Acting Captain Mike Lemos arrived on-scene at 3.37 AM and reported that a vehicle was on its side pinned against a tree with two victims trapped inside. The vehicle had sheared off a power pole and live electrical wires were resting on the vehicle, sparking and arcing from a transformer located on the severely damaged power pole.

Two Fire Engines, Ladder Truck and Battalion Chief we’re deployed to the incident for a total of 11 Menlo Fire Personnel. The Engine crews were assigned to patient care, deploying protective hose lines and securing the power lines while the Truck crew was assigned to vehicle stabilization and auto extrication.

After assessing the situation, Firefighters were unable to secure or remove the power lines from a blue Lexus four door Sedan, hindering the access to two male patients in their twenties, both were conscious and talking to Firefighters.

PG&E was requested, but gave up to a 45 minute response time. Battalion Chief Dan Coyle explained the severity of the situation and it was decided that the local power grid to portions of Atherton and West Menlo Park would need to be completely shut down and de-energized before Firefighters could safely gain access to the two victims who were trapped inside the vehicle.

At 4.10 AM PG&E advised and confirmed that they had completely shut down the power grid to the local area and that the power lines should be de-energized.  Firefighters checked for back feeding from any local backup generators or other sources using special handheld energy sensors but none was noted and the vehicle extrication efforts began in earnest.

Truck Captain Steve Susa directed his crew to use adjustable struts and cribbing to first secure and stabilize the Lexus so it could not tip back over. Using the “Jaws of Life” and reciprocal saws, Firefighters carefully worked between the tree, sheared off and splintered power pole and the Lexus to cut apart the vehicle from around the two victims in-order to extricate the trapped men.

The carefully handled auto extrication took another twenty five minutes and both freed patients were then transported to Stanford Trauma Center on two AMR Advanced Life Support Ambulances after being treated by Firefighter Paramedics at 4.35 AM.

PG&E electrical personnel arrived at the scene at 4.44 AM. The vehicle needed to be removed and power pole, transformer and lines repaired and replaced, before power could be restored to the local area.

Fire Chief Schapelhouman said “this is the type of high stakes emergency response and technical rescues our personnel constantly train for. It was unfortunate that the power had to be shut down so widely, but in order to safely extricate these two young men, there was no other way to ensure their safety and that of the firefighters, who needed to gain access to them under extremely dangerous circumstances”.

Firefighters remained on-scene picking up their equipment until 5 AM. For additional accident information please contact the Atherton Police Department.

Please give credit to the attached photographs to “Menlo Park Fire District”.


Above - Menlo Park Firefighters on Truck 1 work to stabilize a vehicle that sheared off a power pole and was pinned against a tree with two victims trapped inside in Atherton early Sunday morning. Note the power line and pole leaning over the hood of the vehicle.


Above - Menlo Park Firefighters gain access to two trapped men through the front windshield opening of a Lexus on its side that was pinned against a tree and after it had sheared off a power pole with wires arcing and sparking when Firefighters arrived in Atherton early Sunday morning.


Above - Menlo Park Firefighters use the Jaws of Life to carefully extricate two men from a Lexus that sheared off a power pole and was pinned against a tree early Sunday morning in Atherton. Note the splintered and sheared power pole to the right of the tree.

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