Vauxhall bridge and crumpled fire truck

A fire truck lies crumpled below the Vauxhall Bridge on Edgerton Street on Thursday morning after it crashed through guardrails and plunged about eight metres (about 25 feet) on to the bank of the Thames River’s south branch in southeast London. (Ed Heal/The London Free Press)

Police were unable to confirm whether there was ice on the bridge.

By: Pat Currie and Steve Green
The London Free Press

While London motorists drove by, or merely sat and gaped Thursday morning,  two London firefighters crawled out of the wreckage of their fire truck, scrambled up a steep river bank, and flagged down a police cruiser.

If the truck had crashed through a Vauxhall Bridge railing only a few meters further back, it would have plunged nose-first in t the south branch of the Thames River.  The crash occurred about 9:10AM.

London police Staff Sergeant Fred Schell said the first three officers on the scene were Constables Rock Choja, Donald McKenzie and Mar McGugan.

Andre Jongpire, one of four firefighters riding in the truck when it swerved off the fog-shrouded Egerton Street-Thompson Road Bridge, joined in the rescue, Platoon Chief Bob Tambling said.

Driver Pinned: Driver Stuart McCallum was pinned in the wreck at the edge of the river, for about 10 minutes before rescuers pulled him free. He and front-seat passenger, Captain James Myatt, were reported in critical condition in Victoria Hospital.

Tambling said the fact all four were wearing seatbelts – as required by London fire department regulations – prevented them from being killed, especially Mulligan and Jongpier.

“No doubt about it,” Tambling Said. “It’s a proven fact today.”

Tambling said the 1979 death of firefighter Richard Roman, who died after being pinned under an overturned fire truck, was one fo the key reasons the London department equipped its vehicles with seatbelts and made their use mandatory.

False Alarm: Acting fire chief Jim Fitzgerald said the truck, normally stationed at No.9 firehall on Wellington Road South, left Florence Street maintenance shops in response to what turned out to be a false alarm on Muriel Crescent in deep south London.

“He (the driver) started to loos it (control). He corrected or maybe over-corrected in an attempt to avoid a collision” with oncoming traffic, said Schell. He said police had reports of black ice Thursday morning but he could not confirm if there was ice on the bridge.

Other Accidents:

  • March, 1986: Four firefighters and three women were slightly injured in a collision involving a car and a fire department rescue unit on Waterloo Street to what proved to be a false alarm.
  • January, 1985: Four firefighters were injured when their pumper hit a utility pole on Pond Mills Road while heading to an alarm. A motorist who failed to yield right-of-way was blamed.
  • April 1979: Firefighter Richard Roman died after he was pinned for a half-hour under his pumper after it collided with an ambulance at the intersection of Mornington Avenue and Curry Street. Three other firefighters, the ambulance driver and attendant were also injured. Both vehicles had been responding to an apartment building fire.