KC firefighter loses part of leg but saves lives

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A longtime Kansas City firefighter lost part of his leg when he crashed a pumper truck on an emergency run this week. But two people in the car that caused the wreck could have lost a lot more had he not taken the action he did, police said.

Kansas City Police Sgt. Bill Mahoney said 21-year veteran Jeff Smith would have been fine if he had not cranked the fire truck’s steering wheel sharply to the right to avoid a Grand Prix that was heading right at him Tuesday afternoon.

Rather than hit the car — driven by a 21-year-old mother whose 3-year-old girl was buckled up in the back — head-on, Smith’s action caused the vehicles to collide at an angle.

“If he had gone straight, he would have been fine,” Mahoney said. “But he did what he had to do.”

The Kansas City Star reports that the collision sent the truck over a utility pole and against a tree before utility wires fell onto the truck.

Smith’s leg was nearly severed when the truck hit the tree, but Mahoney said he was “calm and talking to people.”

“No one realized how seriously he was hurt until they got him out of the truck,” the sergeant said.

Smith’s lower left leg had to be amputated. His condition was not available Friday, and a Fire Department spokesman told The Associated Press the family has asked the department not to release further information to the media.

Police said the woman driving the Grand Prix might have been trying to go around traffic that stopped to yield to the oncoming fire truck. She was arrested and kept in jail overnight before being released Wednesday, pending further investigation.

Mahoney said he believes that given the disparity in size between the fire truck and the car — and because the 3-year-old was wearing a seat belt but not a child seat — the girl would have been killed in a head-on crash. He said her mother might have died, as well.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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