News Stories

Quick Response Saves Man Trapped, Crushed, in Garbage Truck

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A man who found himself in a horrific life-threatening situation was saved thanks to the quick work of first responders and the cooperation between the Burlington Police Department and the Burlington Fire Department.


On Friday, November 16 at 4:41 a.m. police received a call through the 911 system but were unable to hear anyone on the other line. They attempted to call the number back and at 4:48 a.m. and were able to get in touch with a man who said he had been sleeping in a dumpster in the area of Market Basket that had been dumped into the back of a garbage truck. The truck’s hydraulic compressor had been activated but the man was still alive and conscious though he didn’t know the current location of the vehicle.


Police immediately dispatched officers to patrol the area and look for any garbage trucks. Meanwhile officers at the station started to engage the department’s 911 locator system and determined that the cell tower closest to man’s cell phone was on Van De Graaff Drive near Lahey Hospital and Wayside Plaza, indicating the truck was still on the move.


Police also contacted T-Mobile which started pinging the phone to give a clearer picture of where the truck was located. By 4:47 a.m. they had a good idea of where the truck was located and at 5:02 a.m., working with the phone company, they determined the vehicle was within 66 meters of the Crossroads Plaza at 34 Cambridge Street.


“The cell phone technology capability is extraordinary – how close we can narrow down the location of a phone,” said Sgt. Tom Carlson. “It’s really a remarkable process.”


Carlson said at that time he issued an order to shut down Cambridge Street and to search all garbage trucks. However, in that same moment the truck driver, tipped off to check by a fellow driver police had spoken with, called to report that he had someone in his vehicle in the parking lot of Panera Bread.


Locating the man was just the first part of the rescue operation. Members of the Burlington Fire Department arrived on scene and the first obstacle was simply getting to the victime. The lip of the back of the truck is roughly 15 feet off the ground, requiring one ladder to get to the top. But then there was the matter of getting down to him.


“I thought about jumping in but realized I’d injure myself,” Firefighter Paul Kadilak explained. “So we needed a second ladder to get into the back of the truck.”


Firefighters say that when they were able to look into the back of the truck, at first using only flashlights, they could only see the victim’s hand sticking up from a pile of cardboard. When they got into the truck they started to remove the cardboard but due to a mix of rain and snow it was wet and fell apart in their hands, hampering their attempts to reach the man.


“It was compressed, wet, cardboard and it kept pulling apart,” Kadilak said, who was working inside the truck with Firefighters/Paramedics Justin Kane and Connor Grenier, two newer members with the department.


After unburying the man they were then faced with the problem of getting him out of the garbage truck. Pulling him up a ladder would only add to his significant injuries. Fortunately, early on in the rescue Lt. Todd Ficocielo had called the tower truck to the scene and they were able to use that to lower a stretcher into the back of the truck and secure the man to it. They were then able to lift him out and get him into an ambulance and to Lahey Hospital where a large crew of emergency room doctors and nurses awaited their arrival.


Firefighters say the man had been crushed by the truck’s compressor multiple times and had fractures throughout the left side of his body. He also had a broken back.


“It was a shock to see the condition he was in,” Captain Andrew Connerty said. “He was lucky to be alive.”


The victim’s rescue required fast action and cooperation of everyone involved.


“They were spot on,” Sgt. Carlson said of all the first responders. “It’s as good of an outcome we could ask for and everyone took their responsibilities very seriously and were fantastic.”


“This is what we do – we encounter a problem and then find a solution and get it done,” Firefighter Richard Hovasse said. “And we had three new guys who did a good job. They didn’t act like rookies.”


Finally, it is a call that everyone will remember.


“I think this was a once in a lifetime kind of call,” Kane said.


“It was one big nightmare,” Grenier added.


“It was certainly not an average day,” Sgt. Carlson said. “As I said to my guys this is something you see on tv, not something you come across. It was like an episode of a 911 tv show.”


The firefighters involved in the rescue were Captain Andrew Connerty, Lt. Todd Ficociello and firefighters Paul Kadilak, Justin Kane, Connor Grenier, Richard Hovasse, Tom McLead and Eric Holey. The dispatcher was Brian Letendre.


The police officers involved were Lt. Dan Hanafin, Sgt. Tomas Carlson and Officers Dan Houston, Remiz Gandevia, Jillisa Smith and Eric McGee. Dan Main was the desk officer.


Photo courtesy of Burlington Police Officer Jillisa Smith