Fatal Crash on Route 202 at Matlack Street
 
By Lt Bill Cummings
November 12, 2017
 

Yesterday afternoon, Station 53, Station 55 (Good Fellowship EMS) and Medic 91 (Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital ALS) were dispatched to Route 202 and Matlack Street for an accident with fire. Chester County 911 were receiving reports of an accident with possible entrapment involving several cars and a tractor trailer on fire. Assistant 51 (K. Green) responded immediately and was advised by Chester County Communications that they were receiving numerous calls. Additional WCFD units were requested to assist. Engine 52-1 and Engine 53 responded quickly, along with Engine 51-1. Rescue 53, Tanker 52 and additional WCFD units also responded. Crews arrived to find an horrific scene. Numerous damaged cars were strewn along Rt 202 as well as an overturned tractor-trailer and severely damaged passenger car that was on fire. WCFD crews utilized numerous hoselines to extinguish the fires. Fire from the tractor had extended into the trailer resulting in an extensive overhaul operation. The trailer was loaded with frozen turkeys. Numerous EMS Units attended to the injured, who were transported to several local hospitals. The Chester County HAZMAT Team was also summoned to assist and control run-off and fuel containment. Command (Chief McDonald), after consulting with on-scene police commander, requested numerous portable light towers from the County to assist in the PD during their investigation.

Fame FF Jamie Harkins was in his private vehicle sitting in traffic when the accident happened in front of him. FF Harkins instinctively ran to the most severely damaged vehicle. FF Harkins, unable to gain access through the passenger side doors, was finally able to gain access through the window after another passerby assisted. FF Harkins, without the benefit of personal protective equipment or a charged hoseline, pulled the front seat passenger from the car, as it was quickly filling with heat and smoke. He handed the passenger to a passerby who assisted her to safety. FF Harkins then attempted to reach the driver's seatbelt buckle. Unable to do so, he called out for knife, which was supplied by another passerby. FF Harkins then cut the driver's seatbelt and made several attempts to pull the unconscious driver out through the passenger's side window. Unfortunately, conditions within the passenger vehicle quickly became untenable and FF Harkins had to retreat for his own safety. The fire from the burning tractor-trailer rapidly consumed the car. Sadly, the driver died. FF Harkins suffered a minor burn to his hand and singed hair on his scalp during his rescue efforts. Had it not been for the extraordinary actions of FF Jamie Harkins, the outcome surely would have been much worse.

The West Goshen Township Police Department is investigating the cause of the accident. West Chester Fire Police were assisted by numerous other Fire Police units, as Route 202 was closed for many hours and traffic was diverted throughout the area.
Our heartfelt and sincere condolences go out to the victim's family and friends and to all who were injured.

 
Units: Engine 53, Rescue 53, Squad 53, Ladder 53, Engine 51-1, Engine 52-1, Engine 52-2, Tanker 52, Ambulance 55,Medic 91 and WC Fire Police
 
Mutual Aid: Multiple EMS and Fire Police Units; HAZMAT 15-1, HAZMAT 15-2
 
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