Firefighter Rescues Driver in Truck Hanging Over Kentucky Bridge

For nearly an hour, the driver of a tractor-trailer was trapped in its cab as it dangled high above the Ohio River off the side of a Kentucky bridge after a multivehicle crash on Friday.

From the bridge, emergency responders shouted directions to the driver. Emergency crews set up a rope system and lowered a Louisville, Ky., firefighter, Bryce Carden, to rescue her.

“Thank God,” the driver said when Mr. Carden drew even with the truck’s cab, he recalled at a news conference on Friday.

Initially, Mr. Carden said, he struggled to free the driver from her seatbelt.

“We were given a free pocketknife during our trainings, and I had that pocketknife on me, so I was able to cut her out of her seatbelt,” he said in a phone interview on Saturday. “I was able to get her out and get the rest of the harness on her.”

The driver and Mr. Carden, who were now attached to each other, were about 100 feet above the river as they were lifted up to the bridge, a process that took about five minutes.

“I kept telling her ‘I have you, I have you,’” Mr. Carden said on Saturday. “She was just thanking God, and then I told her, ‘Let’s just keep praying together.’”

Unknown to Mr. Carden and the driver, news crews had gathered and drones captured riveting footage of the rescue, some of which was broadcast live.

“I had no idea just how many people were watching,” he said. “I was focused at the task at hand.”

He said the driver, who was not publicly identified, remained calm throughout the rescue until she made it back to top of the bridge, the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge, which connects Louisville, Ky., to southern Indiana.

“I think all the emotions kind of came over, and it hit her that, you know, she possibly could have died,” he said.

Mr. Carden said he had practiced the rope rescue technique so many times that it had become “second nature,” but Friday was the first time he had used it in an emergency.

At a news conference on Friday, the Louisville fire chief, Brian O’Neill, called the rescue a “once-in-a-career type of a thing.”

He said rescuers were dealing with a precarious and unpredictable situation given that the tractor-trailer was “essentially pinched onto the concrete, as well as one of the bridge abutments that was holding it in place.”

“We were very concerned with the stabilization there to make sure our people are safe,” he said. “We are willing to risk a lot to save a lot, so, yes, we are willing to take that risk to get her out, but it was a constant concern that the truck could shift at any moment.”

Chief O’Neill described Mr. Carden as one of the “nicest, happiest guys” and just the person to have led the high-stakes rescue.

“He is the exact right person to put down there to keep that patient calm, cool and collected and to understand that she is in safe hands so she doesn’t panic,” Chief O’Neill said.

The driver was taken to a hospital and treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, the Louisville Metro Police Department said.

The tractor-trailer pierced the guardrail after a crash that involved three other vehicles around noon, the police said. Two other patients, who were not identified, were also taken to a hospital for injuries that were serious and potentially life-threatening, officials said.

The truck was removed from the bridge on Friday night. The bridge was scheduled to be partially reopened by Saturday evening, state transportation officials said on social media.

For Mr. Carden, after the rescue, it was a long night of taking calls, getting back to normal firehouse life, responding to text messages from loved ones and doing interviews with news outlets.

“We went straight back to work,” he said. “I didn’t have a chance to talk to my wife until three hours later.”

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