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9 'hotshot' firefighters hurt when truck overturns near Palmdale

July 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Nine firefighters were recovering Tuesday morning from an accident on a remote highway near Palmdale. Their truck rolled off the side of Mount Emma Road in the Angeles National Forest.

Broken glass and personal items spilled from the U.S. Forest Service crew buggy after it catapulted down an embankment off of Mount Emma Rd. in Palmdale.

Nine members of a "hotshot" crew from Valyermo were inside the crew buggy. Forest Service officials say all nine people were wearing their seatbelts.

"They do have seatbelts in the back and the front seats as well so they were strapped in. So luckily they had their seatbelts on when they did roll. It could have been a lot worse," said U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Nathan Judy.

Skid marks on the road indicated where the crew buggy veered off as the crew was on the way back to a fire station at about 9:30 p.m. Monday when the accident happened.

California Highway Patrol officials say the driver swerved to avoid an animal in the road, then over-corrected, causing the vehicle to launch down the embankment, tumbling several times before landing on its side.

"Once it did roll, we did have three people that were trapped. They had to be extricated by L.A. County Fire," said Judy. "Once that was done they were airlifted off."

Six others were transported to area hospitals. All victims suffered only minor to moderate injuries.

According to the CHP, the driver was going about 60 miles per hour on Mount Emma Rd. Forest Service officials say they are still investigating the accident and do warn drivers to be extra careful when driving on deserted roads.

"For one, you don't have the streetlights like you do down in the city," said Judy. "It's all pitch black, so if you have an animal that runs across the road, you have a split-second to try to react to it. Either you hit that animal, or you drive off the side of the road."

Seven victims were treated and released from the hospital overnight. Two victims remained hospitalized Tuesday at L.A. County-USC Medical Center with neck and back injuries.

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