A fire engine that became struck in the Paoli Hospital parking lot and had to be lifted out was there to honor the final wish of a dying member of the fire department.
According to a statement from West Chester Fire Department Chief Dale McClure, a 25-year member of the department with terminal cancer had requested that company apparatus escort him from the hospital to a hospice care center in West Chester.
The engine, from Good Will Fire Company No. 2, arrived with at least two others at the hospital around 1:30 p.m. Thursday to fulfill the firefighter's request.
According to a statement from McClure, the engines began to stage in a rear parking lot near the cancer center as the member was prepared for transport in an ambulance. As the apparatus pulled into the lot, the concrete beneath it gave way.
No one was injured in the incident, but at least one car parked in the underground level beneath the engine was damaged by falling debris. The hospital moved as many cars out of harm's way as was safely possible, according to Main Line Health spokesperson Bridget Therriault.
Structural engineers from The Harman Group and High Concrete were called to the scene to help plan the best way to safely remove the fire engines.
The stuck engine was blocking the lot's only exit, so members of the hospital's maintenance staff constructed a ramp out of gravel to allow the other two fire engines to exit. Then, at approximately 7 p.m., crews from Abel Brothers were able to hoist the stuck engine out of its hole.
The engine was able to reverse backward into the adjoining lot on its damaged tire, which was then replaced by Baird and Rudolph Tire Company. No other damage to the engine was evident, and it was able to be driven off the lot.
An employee of High Concrete said the ground gave way because the surface was not designed to handle that much weight. The engine weighed approximately 15 to 20 tons, according to multiple sources at the scene. The parking structure is approximately 20 years old, according to a hospital administrator.
Jim Paradis, vice president of administration at Main Line Health, which operates Paoli Hospital, said the lower level of the parking lot would be open Friday. The hole would be covered with steel plates and the entire upper level would be blocked off, he said.
Paoli Fire Company and Willistown Police Department were among those who responded to the scene. A West Chester Borough Police officer also arrived to document the situation, which is standard procedure when a borough-owned vehicle is involved in an accident.