Jaws of life demonstration at the Winona County Fair

(ABC 6 News) – Two recent, serious crashes highlight what law enforcement calls one of the deadliest starts to summer on Minnesota roads.

The first crash killed 33-year-old Brenna Amos of Stewartville. Her car ran into the back of a tractor that was hauling farm equipment near Red Wing.

The second shut down part of I-35 near Fairbault for more than six hours. Two semi’s crashed in the southbound lanes and burst into flames.

The two drivers are from out of state, one sustaining life-threatening injuries.

First responders are no strangers to crashes like these. When on the scene, the rely on special equipment to save lives. On the first day of the Winona County Fair, a crowd gathered to watch St. Charles Fire and Rescue demonstrate how they use one of these important tools.

They simulated a two-car vehicle crash to show how fire departments use the jaws of life to free people after a serious accident.

“A lot of times we don’t need to use the jaws of life, but they’re obviously a very, very important piece of equipment when we do need them,” said Matt Essig, the Ambulance Director for the City of Lewiston.

The jaws of life are used when someone is stuck in a vehicle, or badly hurt after an accident. They allow first responders to pray a vehicle open so someone can be removed safely, without causing further injuries.

First responders will break the windows of the car before removing the hood to rescue the people trapped inside and take them to safety.

“The doors will be jammed sometimes in a front end or a side collision. The doors will jam, you can’t open them, you have to cut them.” said Doug Hinrichs, Captain of the Goodview Fire Department. “But probably more common is people injured, and you have to bring them out without doing any further harm.”

With innovations in how cars are built, the jaws of life are starting to see less use because vehicles are better equipped to absorb the impact of collisions. However, in the most serious cases, there’s no other choice.

“Depending on the situation, there literally might be no other way to get a patient out of a vehicle without cutting it or moving it off of them so we can get them out safely, without hurting them further,” said Essig.

In smaller areas like Winona, the jaws of life don’t have to be used often – typically less than once per month.

In situations where it is necessary, communication and cooperation between all first responders present is key to getting everyone out safely.