RUMFORD — A station wagon being backed down Somerset Street on Thursday night went over a snowbank and became impaled on a fire hydrant, which punctured the floor of the car and the gas tank, officials said.

Rumford police Sgt. Tracey Higley said Friday morning that Damon Korhonen, 22, was backing a 2000 Subaru station wagon down the street when he lost control of it shortly after 6 p.m.

The car went over a snowbank, broke off the top of the fire hydrant and landed atop the pipe, Higley said.

Neither Korhonen nor his passenger, who wasn’t identified, was injured.

The hydrant’s barrel, or riser pipe off the water main, came up through the floor behind the driver’s seat, Bob Riley, owner of towing company and garage MT Pockets of Dixfield, said.

“That was a first for me,” Riley said of seeing the impalement. “I was kind of surprised when I saw it.”

Higley said the car wasn’t blasted by a column of pressurized water. Rumford fire Deputy Chief Richard Coulombe said the water is turned off at Rumford hydrants to prevent that situation.

A dispatcher in Paris tried contacting a couple of towing companies in Rumford, but Higley said they didn’t have tow trucks capable of lifting a car off a fire hydrant pipe.

To apprise dispatchers of the situation Thursday night, Higley radioed, “The fire hydrant is exactly in the middle of the vehicle.”

That’s when Riley was called. He had medium- and heavy-duty tow trucks for righting and hauling tractor-trailers.

Rumford firefighters were also called because the Subaru’s fuel tank had ruptured, Higley said.

Pete Gautreau, foreman for the Rumford Water District, said Friday afternoon that traffic fire hydrants are designed to break off at a “break flange” when hit by a vehicle so they don’t release water. The Somerset Street hydrant, however, didn’t have a break flange.

So the accident also broke the hydrant’s steel barrel, meaning the district will have to dig up the damaged hydrant to replace it. He estimated the damage at about $2,000 for parts and labor.

Gautreau said he understood how the accident happened. Because the snowbank was there, the car flew up on it and hit the hydrant at a higher position than normal, causing it to break off. That, in turn, caused the hydrant pipe to punch up through the underside of the car when it came down on the pipe, he said.

Besides the impalement, the other problem was the broken fire hydrant, which came to rest under the car.

“It’s like a big rock under a car,” Coulombe said. “So they couldn’t just pull the car off of it.”

Riley said he had to use his medium-duty tow truck and an auto carrier tow truck.

“We had to lift the front end of the car up while my auto carrier pulled the back of the car around so we could get it up off the hydrant,” he said.

Then, the tow truck had to pick up the rear of the car to free it from the broken hydrant top.

“I’ve seen hydrants get hit before, but this one was behind the driver’s door and up through the floor, so it was a first one for me,” Riley said.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: