A 27-year-old woman lay in her crashed minivan for nearly 10 hours, unable to scream for help or reach a phone as temperatures dropped Wednesday night.
She was alone, 20 feet into the woods.
When firefighters arrived Thursday morning, the woman said the last thing she remembered was driving at 10 p.m., said Yarmouth Fire Chief Michael A. Walker.
The woman, whose identity has not been released, crashed the minivan on Winslow Gray Road near Bog Road, Walker said.
“I have no idea how or why she got where she did,” Walker said. “It was just that crazy.”
The woman remained trapped in the car as the mercury fell. Temperatures in Yarmouth dipped into the 20s overnight, according to the National Weather Service.
“She might have been in there since 10 o’clock last night,” he said. “The vehicle was completely cold, engine was cold. She was in there at least long enough that the car cooled off.”
A man walking his dog in the neighborhood Thursday morning noticed the crash just before 7 a.m. and called 911, said Walker, who lives three blocks from the scene and rushed over as soon as the call came in.
Because of the thick forest and severely damaged vehicle, Walker soon realized that this would not be an easy rescue.
“We could not even access the patient for quite some time,” he said. “Engines 43 and 42, from Stations 1 and 3, respectively, used virtually every tool in their fire engines to extricate her.”
Firefighters had to cut trees that were blocking the woman and were eventually able to reach her arm and administer intravenous fluids, he said.
Responders used two Jaws of Life tools, handsaws, and chainsaws to rescue the woman, Walker said.
Chains, cribbing, air bags, and cut logs were used to support the vehicle which was lying on the driver’s side.
As each method failed, Walker started to wonder what options his team had left.
“It took a considerable amount of time to get her out of the car,” he said. “She was talking, but not completely oriented to time and place.”
Nearly an hour after firefighters first arrived, they pulled the woman from the minivan.
Walker was especially worried that she was suffering from hypothermia.
“As soon as we gained access to her we covered her up with a bunch of blankets,” he said.
The woman was taken to the Barnstable Municipal Airport and then flown to a Boston hospital with life-threatening injuries, Walker said.
It was the most difficult rescue of his career, Walker said.
“The guys did a magnificent job getting her out,” he said. “That’s about as tough as I’ve ever seen.”
Melissa Werthmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.