Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton Fire Department Engine 510 cut in half by semi at 1100N and 49

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Three Chesterton firefighters are alive and well today after a semi-tractor trailer T-boned Engine 510 at the intersection of 1100N and Ind. 49, as 510--emergency lights and sirens activated--was en route to an EMS call.

According to a statement released this morning by the Chesterton Police Department, at 1:24 p.m. Engine 510 was westbound on 1100N en route to a dispatched call, crossing the intersection against a red light and operating with lights and sirens, when a semi northbound in the left through lane of Ind. 49 attempted to proceed through the intersection on the green light and struck 510 on the driver’s side.  "The collision  occurred between the front of the semi-tractor and the left center to rear of the fire engine as both vehicles entered the intersection at the same time,” CPD said.

The impact caused Engine 510 to separate neatly into two pieces: the chassis and the cab on top of it, where the firefighters were riding; and the rear box, with the water tank and hose and equipment storage.

“The fire engine  was staffed with three employees and the semi-tractor contained the single operator,” the CPD said. “Minor injuries were reported on scene to the driver of the semi and to one of the fire department employees. Both were treated on scene and released.”

The 2007 Peterbilt semi-tractor trailer, registered to J. Baker Trucking LLL of Pierceton, Ind., was hauling around 27,000 pounds of metal bars, and CPD said that the impact loosened the load, causing some spillage on Ind. 49. “The intersection was impassable for approximately half an hour, causing a backup on northbound Ind. 49. However, traffic was flowing through the intersection by 2 p.m. Officers and cleanup crews from Joe’s Towing were on scene until approximately 4:30 p.m.”

"Investigation into the crash continues,” CPD said.

This morning Fire Chief John Jarka told the Chesterton Tribune that--as he understands the engine’s manufacture--510 was designed specifically to separate cleanly at the box and chassis, to prevent rollover in case of impact.

Engine 510, a 2015 Sutphen, is the CFD’s primary backup, and conversations are already underway with Anton Insurance Agency as to the next step, Jarka said. Because the crash left 510 with a bent frame, repair is probably impractical, Jarka indicated, and while the CFD does have replacement coverage, it generally takes eight to 12 months to build an engine from scratch, and that’s after the statutory bidding process. Conceivably the CFD could look at replacing Engine 510 with a low-mileage demo model, but nothing has yet been determined. “There’s a lot of discussion still to go with insurance,” Jarka said.

In the meantime, the CFD does have a secondary backup engine, but it’s old, a 1992 International. “We do have our aerial apparatus,” Jarka noted. “It pumps water, carries people, and hauls some equipment. It wouldn’t be optimal for driving around town, but in a pinch it could be used as an engine.”

Still, engines are replaceable. People are not.  "We are extremely lucky,” Jarka said. “Today is a day we’re mourning the loss of the engine but celebrating the health and well-being of our personnel.”

Jarka said. “Seatbelts and the engine driver’s quick reactions saved a life.”



Posted 9/24/2020




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