SHEFFIELD — Knowing seconds can mean the difference between life and death, firefighters desperately worked to free a head-on car crash victim Wednesday.
Witnesses said the 5:30 p.m. crash near 1171 N. Abbe Road, about a mile north of Colorado Avenue, occurred when a northbound 2002 Ford Explorer driven by Ramon Davila veered left into the southbound lane and collided with a 2004 Chevrolet Impala driven by Alice F. Smith. Both Davila, 55, of the 700 block of Pasadena Avenue in Sheffield Lake, and Smith, 40, of Akron, were being treated at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland early this morning.
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Davila’s condition was being evaluated and Smith was listed in critical.
Smith couldn’t avoid Davila, said Charlene and Leonard Zoruba of Avon, who were driving behind Smith.
“It just happened too quick,” Charlene Zoruba said of the crash, which remains under investigation by police.
The Zorubas said Smith, who remained conscious, asked about her 4-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son who were in the back seat. The Zorubas and other witnesses said the children were not seriously hurt. The children were taken to St. John Medical Center in Westlake.
Phillip Bruder, of the 1200 block of North Abbe Road, said a driver smashed the driver’s side window of the Impala with a hammer in an attempt to free Smith before firefighters arrived. Other motorists comforted Smith’s children.
“I just told her, ‘You’re going to be OK, and they’re going to take care of your mom,” said driver Hannah Shaw of Fairview, who tended to Smith’s daughter before paramedics arrived. “I just kept telling her to breathe and she’s a brave little girl.”
Given the stakes, the 53-minute extrication of Smith seemed excruciatingly long. As the high-pitched whine of an extrication tool cutting apart the Impala sounded, firefighter Mike Foreman treated Davis, who was sandwiched between the steering column and front seat of her Impala. IV bags were inserted into Smith’s arms. Meanwhile, a pair of firefighters cut through the passenger door of the car with the extrication tool and later cut the rear driver’s side door off the car.
At 6:25 p.m., some 45 minutes after the extrication began, firefighters pounded on the roof of the Impala about a dozen times with hatchets. The rear window cracked and back of the roof collapsed. A minute later with Sheffield firefighter Aaron Lewis standing atop the trunk, firefighters pried back the roof of the Impala.
At 6:33 p.m., with a jump-suited flight doctor and nurse from a Metro Health helicopter observing, Smith was removed and placed on a gurney.
“Just get her in there!” a firefighter yelled, referring to an ambulance that would drive Smith to the helicopter, which landed at Knollwood Elementary School.
Sheffield fire Capt. Greg Davis, a firefighter since 1995, said the extrication, which began around 5:40 p.m., was one of the longest of his career. Smith said most take between 10 and 30 minutes, but Wednesday’s extrication was lengthier because the vehicles directly impacted, rather than a glancing crash.
“It makes for a lot more interior compartment damage of the vehicle, which makes for a lengthier extrication,” Davis said. “We knew that from the get-go when we rolled up and saw it.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.