Car-nage: Mangled vehicles arranged for a training exercise | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Car-nage: Mangled vehicles arranged for a training exercise

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Lake Valley Fire Department Capt. Brad Zlendick, right, who organized an extrication drill for area firefighters this weekend, discusses accident scenarios with Emerald Bay Towing truck drivers Gary Iacopucci, left, and John Baker. Emerald Bay Towing donated most of the vehicles to be used in the three-day training that begins Friday.
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MEYERS – Motorists passing the Lake Valley Fire station on Highway 89 may think they’ve witnessed the aftermath of a horrendous accident – something they might see on Interstate 5 at the Grapevine.

Others may believe 11 cars tipped up on their sides and noses – some of them placed under boulders and on rocks – may have been placed as a sort of modern-day Stonehenge.

But to the Lake Valley Fire Department, the scene of mangled metal is all about training that may save lives down the road. The fire station will stage training exercises among crews in a long list of rescue agencies in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The extrication exercises set for Friday through Sunday require a lot of mental and physical ability.

“We try to simulate what has happened (in the basin),” Capt. Brad Zlendick said. In 2005, the department responded to 107 accidents along Highways 88, 89 and 50, many of them high-speed crashes.

“These are the most challenging parts of the job. They make it more difficult to extricate,” he said.

The firefighters will use a few jacks on the destroyed cars, which are piled on each other and against trees, dropped into place by Emerald Bay Towing, which also provides the wrecked vehicles.

Towing company driver Gary Iacopucci took one look at a car buried by a boulder and said: “Echo Summit,” as if he remembered a particular accident. Rocks have been known to tumble down mountainsides. One vehicle on Highway 89 flew off a hairpin turn and into a tree. Iacopucci admitted he couldn’t recall a certain crash because he’s arrived at so many scenes, they’ve become a blur.

“Sometimes you look at a vehicle and you think “fatal” but you find out the person just walks from it. You never know what you’re going to get. After 20 years, you’ve seen pretty much everything,” he said.

“It looks nasty, but it’s valued training,” said Zlendick, who organized the three-day exercise after receiving similar training in the Bay Area.

For now, Meyers resident Sue Novasel simply recommended the fire department put up a sign explaining the grisly scene.

“People in front of me have slammed on their brakes because it’s interesting to see. You think: ‘Oh my God, what a terrible accident.’ It looks like Armageddon.”


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