Route 149 crash

Firefighters work to free people from a wrecked SUV Monday on Route 149. Police say their work likely saved the life of one victim in the vehicle.

Don Lehman, dlehman@poststar.com

I made it up to the fatal crash on Route 149 within 15 minutes of it happening on Monday, as the initial scanner chatter made it pretty clear it was a bad one.

By that point there were already at least three Bay Ridge fire trucks on scene, along with an ambulance and innumerable police and first responders.

Two people were trapped in the sport-utility vehicle blamed for the crash. When I looked at the shape of that vehicle, I thought there was no way they could have survived.

One didn't, but one did. And Warren County sheriff's Lt. Steve Stockdale said the well-oiled machine that was the Bay Ridge Fire Department can take credit for much of that.

"The reason Ellen Gipe is still alive is because of the Bay Ridge Fire guys," he said. "If they didn't know their job so well, we would have pulled 2 dead people out of that car. If she survives this, and I think she will, its 100 percent due to their expertise."

The firefighters were able to stabilize Gipe before beginning the dangerous task of extricating her by essentially cutting the vehicle apart. And they also helped stabilize a massive tractor trailer that was in danger of rolling down a hillside into a neighborhood. Some were on the scene for 8 hours or so with full turnout gear on.

Stockdale pointed to longtime members of Bay Ridge like Chuck Mellon and the rest of the Mellon family, who have been the backbone of the volunteer department for generations. When the women's auxiliary brought around food and water at the scene, the Mellons made sure the police were served before they helped themselves, Stockdale said.

Many don't realize what volunteers do behind the scenes at situations like this, he said. And it's not just Bay Ridge, but all of the local fire departments and rescue squads, Queensbury's busy organizations in particular, who put in countless hours of unpaid time to help the public.

"Without guys like that, what do you do? It's not a 'community' without them," he said.

-- Don Lehman

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Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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