Two people traveling in a convertible were trapped under a 15,000-pound tractor for about two hours in downtown Gaston Wednesday evening, Aug. 9.
About 40 rescue personnel from Cornelius, Forest Grove, Gaston and Hillsboro fire departments, along with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Washington County Sheriff's Office (WCSO) and Life Flight descended on Gaston's main drag after the crash was reported around 8:40 p.m.
The cause is still under investigation but according to WCSO, two tractors pulling combine trailers were traveling southbound on Front Street near the Gaston Market and the old Tire Man store. The driver of a silver 2006 Pontiac Solstice was traveling northbound when the sports car clipped the trailer of the first tractor, pulling it into the path of the second tractor. Unable to immediately stop, the second tractor then drove up and onto the Pontiac.
The tractor drivers were 15 and 17 years old and had proper licenses to operate the farm equipment.
Emergency responders worked for more than an hour and a half to extricate driver Victor Accomando, 73, and passenger Donna Accomando, 62, from the Solstice before transporting them to a hospital via Life Flight with non-life-threatening injuries that ranged from minor to serious.
"Holy cow," said Forest Grove Fire&Rescue Public Information Officer Dave Nemeyer, who was mostly coordinating with the Life Flight helicopter. "That was a doozy." Nemeyer said he hadn't seen anything like it in his nearly 20 years on the job.
First of all, "we very rarely have an incident with tractors," he said. If a tractor call does come in, it's usually "because they catch on fire in the field."
But the sheer weight of the farm vehicle and seeing its front axle "sitting on top of where two people are" raised the incident to another level, Nemeyer said.
The tractor was heavier than fire department equipment could lift, so Hillsboro Towing Company had to help crews lift it off the car.
"Just the idea of trying to get in there and work on (the victims), and the worry that any movement on one side will create an equal or greater reaction to squish something on the other side," Nemeyer said. "It's just wildly technical work that the crews had to do to get them out last night."
In addition, Nemeyer said, "I've seen machinery on top of people and nearly every time I've seen that, the person underneath was long dead. These folks were conscious and talking," at least semi-coherently, he said, which "makes it that much more difficult to focus on what we have to do."
"We want to remind everyone that farm equipment is on local rural roadways as they move from field to field working to process local crops," read a press release from Matt Johnson of FGF&R. "Be prepared to encounter slow moving or wide equipment traveling down the roads."