Photo Credit: Rich Maxwell
Jennifer Andrews, 39, was driving north on Route 31 when her heart stopped beating.
In sudden cardiac arrest, she lost control of her Kia Optima, which left the roadway just south of Moebus Place in the Town of Clinton, traveled over a 20-foot drop-off, and came to rest about 75 yards into an area so thick with trees and brush that it could not be seen from the road.
But Miguel Alves, of Hampton Borough, was driving behind Ms. Andrews that Jan. 9 afternoon and saw everything. Knowing something was incredibly wrong, he pulled over and ran down the embankment. He found Ms. Andrews motionless and barely breathing in a car filling with what looked like smoke – residue from the deployed airbag.
Trees blocked the front doors, so Mr. Alves climbed in back. He called 911, comforted Ms. Andrews, and after hearing her take a “gasping” breath, began the CPR he had learned as a security specialist.
Former CFARS rescue associate John Frechette was driving his Superior Towing service truck when he saw commotion alongside the highway and stopped to help. Mr. Fischette revved up the chainsaw he keeps onboard and cut a path through the brush and trees so first responders could more easily get to Ms. Andrews and her car.
Soon after, EMTs and rescue personnel from Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad, police officers from the Town of Clinton, paramedics from Hunterdon Medical Center and firefighters from Annandale Hose Company and Clinton Fire Department began to arrive, each person doing his or her part to keep Ms. Andrews alive.
Chief Chris Sloss of Annandale Hose Co., first of the emergency responders scene, radioed all responding units that CPR was in progress on a woman who was trapped. Clinton Rescue Squad EMTs Matthew Morris and Alison Ambrose and several Clinton Police officers soon followed and began to assist Mr. Alves with treatment.
Performing CPR is physically hard work; the assembled team took turns with the compressions. A defibrillator delivered a shock to Ms. Andrews’ heart, and it began to beat on its own.
She was still in urgent condition, and still trapped.
CFARS’s Heavy Rescue truck arrived with Deputy Chief Bucky Buchanan, Lt. Michelle Gardner, and EMTs Braedon Monticello and Connor Duda onboard. More fire apparatus quickly followed and all worked together to extricate Ms. Andrews from the car as quickly as possible. A second CFARS ambulance arrived with EMTs Brett Colavito and Patrick Wells.
Finally freed from the wrecked vehicle, Ms. Andrews was placed in a CFARS ambulance, where paramedics from Hunterdon Medical Center were setting up their equipment. CFARS and the paramedics transported Ms. Andrews to Hunterdon Medical Center in Raritan Township, where she was immediately taken to the operating room for emergency surgery.
Nine days later, on January 18, Ms. Andrews was reunited with the Good Samaritans and first responders who saved her life. She, her daughters Devyn and Taylor, and their dog Boomer, met all who helped on scene at the CFARS building on Old Route 22.
“This incident shows the true value of teamwork, the willingness of strangers to help each other, early defibrillation, a staffed and ready-to-respond ambulance, and the seamless integration of a health care system with pre-hospital care,” said CFARS Deputy Chief Buchanan. “Ms. Andrews, and all of us, are very lucky to have all of that here.”
Many of the people who helped Ms. Andrews are volunteer first responders. Interested in becoming a volunteer EMT or rescue associate? Please visit www.joinclintonems.com.