The strength of the BMW M4 Coupé is evident in every detail.
The floor of the double cab has become the roof and tiny pieces of shattered glass fall like raindrops from the seat and carpet on to the driver’s face.
The brand new Ford Ranger bakkie has rolled and is now resting on its roof while the paramedics rush around the accident scene. They need to get the driver out in about 20 minutes or he might die.
“C’mon guys, we need to speed up,” shouts one of the paramedics outside the car.
Luckily, this accident was not a life-or-death situation – it formed part of training for ER24 paramedics in Pretoria on Monday.
Ford SA hosted the training on its premises for the second time and donated 14 of its new vehicles, valued at more than R3 million, to be used as examples.
These cars were tipped into various positions to simulate different ways cars come to rest after an accident, while people were invited to put on protective gear and act as an injured passenger inside the car.
The trainees received a “real experience” in cutting open the vehicle and rescuing an injured passenger, said Rescue SA’s Nick Dollman.
Before Rescue SA trained paramedics with vehicles donated by Ford, the trainees would have to use cars from scrapyards that usually were out of date, didn’t have windows or air bags and, therefore, did not really represent the condition of a car that had been in an accident.
The training was run by Rescue SA, a non-profit organisation that responds to disasters locally and internationally.
One of the 12 trainees, Abel Matekoane, said the training was important.
“We need to be dedicated to do this job.”
He said he realised that the equipment used to cut people from the cars was heavier than he thought.
It was important to learn how to examine the accident scene correctly and how to communicate with fellow paramedics effectively, Matekoane said.
The trainees wrote an exam and performed a practical yesterday that was evaluated by the University of Johannesburg as part of an accredited course.
Training and retraining was extremely important because the tools changed often, said Hugh Price-Hughes, spokesman for Rescue SA.
Price-Hughes said one of the biggest challenges when choosing tools was getting the balance right between the weight of the equipment and the power they provided.
Paramedics often had a “golden hour” from the time of the accident to get a person to hospital, said Dollman.
This includes arriving at the scene, quickly examining the area for any potential dangers such as petrol or chemical leaks and checking to see whether the passengers are awake.
Stabilising the car with chocks and support poles, the team then ensure the car won’t move while they cut through the metal.
The paramedics inside the car with the passenger constantly update him with what is about to happen and ask if he is suffering from injuries.
They warn that he will hear a loud noise as the tools – the electric cutters and the Jaws of Life – cut through the vehicle.
As this happens, it feels as though you are sitting in a tin can that is being hit with a hammer, but the cutting of the metal is remarkably quiet.
With 30 tons of pressure at the tips, the Jaws of Life tear effortlessly through the metal of the car door.
The paramedics can then bend the door away and evacuate the passenger on a board to ensure he does not move his neck or spine.
Volunteering as an injured passenger gives a glimpse of the situation that paramedics put themselves into.
“It will also bring the message across that [drivers] must think twice [about] their own safety and attitude on the road,” said Price-Hughes. -The Star