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Firefighters Rescue Child from Crash

Rescue workers save three-year-old girl and her mother from a car that caught fire after a collision.

A three-year-old girl remained in critical condition Tuesday, nearly a week after being rescued from a car crash, officials said.

Loudoun County Sheriff's Department would not release the name of the child who was taken by ambulance to Loudoun Hospital in Lansdowne about 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 8. "The remnants of Hurricane Frances had grounded all air care flights," said sheriff's spokesman Kraig Troxell. "The toddler was later transported to INOVA Fairfax Hospital by ambulance where she was being treated for life-threatening injuries."

Her mother, Monica Chapman, 27, of Midland, Va., and the driver of the second car involved in the crash, Wanda Colclough, 36, of Ashburn, were taken to Loudoun Hospital. Andrew Kelley, captain of the Company 6, Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, said the situation could have been a lot worse if rescue workers were not called to Belmont Ridge Road, near Dulles Greenway, in Ashburn. One car was on fire and the other, with the mother and child, caught fire while firefighters and emergency medical technicians worked to save them.

"Anytime you have a situation like this, there is immediate danger," said Glenn Swain, a Company 6 firefighter and technician.

Kelley agreed. "If we had not been there, the outcome would have been different," he said. "Without the tools, no one there could have made a safe move to extract anybody. Without water, the fire would have more than likely spread."

Michael Wallo and Sean Grubbs, firefighters and EMTs, were the first rescue workers to reach the collision. The Sheriff's Department was also at the scene. Wallo said callers had erroneously told a dispatcher that the mother and child were in the burning vehicle. "When we got on the scene, I had the impression that the people were in the car on fire," he said. It turned out Colclough had escaped that car, so Wallo and Grubbs turned their focus on the other vehicle. Colclough, who was standing with onlookers during the rescue attempt, received medical attention after the Chapmans were removed.

WALLO USED a fire extinguisher while Grubbs comforted and talked to Chapman and her daughter, who were stuck inside. The doors were crushed closed.

Kelley, Swain and Matt Rovelli arrived about a minute later. "Matt grabbed the hose and ran down. Then we realized the car with the people in it was on fire," Kelley said.

He said he quickly assessed the situation and gave instructions on how best to save the family. The possibility of an explosion was unlikely, and the firefighters kept the blaze from spreading from the engine, he said.

Swain, who already had started the pump and set the pressure for the hose line, unloaded the hydraulic tools known as "spreaders."

Wallo started using them to remove the doors until a backup crew, Moorefield Station 23, arrived and finished the task. That crew attended to Colclough.

Swain said the rescue workers did not think about the danger.

"The emotional part of it usually doesn't show up until well after, usually when you start thinking about it," he said. "There's no time. We're trained to do a job and that's what we're doing."

Kelley nodded. "What we're doing is 10 jobs with a few people. …. We care and hope for the best. We hope they will be fine."

SEVEN MEMBERS of Company 6 and six members of Moorefield Station 23, including volunteer and career firefighters, conducted the rescue.

Troxell said Chapman had been driving southbound on Belmont Ridge Road when "for unknown reasons" her 1987 Ford Tempo crossed the center line and struck Colclough's 2003 Jaguar.

The adults were wearing seatbelts, and the child was in a booster seat, he said.

Alcohol and speed were not factors, according to members of the Traffic Safety Unit. The Sheriff's Department is continuing to investigate the incident and asks witnesses to call Detective First Class James Kenna at 703-771-5798.