Tragedy to Triumph: the TL-9 Rescue Tool

By Carl J. Haddon

Many of you will remember a tragic rescue attempt caught on tape some years back.

A cyclist had been struck/run over by a car and was trapped underneath the vehicle. The video shows a first responder with a hydraulic rescue spreader that he deploys to vertically lift the car off of the patient. The lift occurs, and as rescuers attempt to remove the victim from under the car, the spreader loses purchase, causing the car to fall and fatally crush the victim.

1 The TL-9 spreader. (Photos by author.)
1 The TL-9 spreader. (Photos by author.)

Without being a Monday morning quarterback or pointing fingers at anyone, let me just say that this was a case of using the wrong tool for the right reason. Hydraulic rescue spreader arms and tips are not wide enough to provide any kind of stability for such an application. I am unaware of any rescue tool manufacturer that endorses such a practice because of the typical configuration and construction of rescue spreader arms and tips and the nature of the way that spreaders open. There is nothing bad about the tools themselves; it is simply a matter of the wrong tool for the job-until now.

Fast forward to today and the introduction of the TL-9 Stabilizer. The TL-9 is a heavy duty universal appliance designed to fit all commercially available rescue spreaders. Made of one-half-inch-thick plate steel, the stabilizer is designed to offer a six-inch by six-inch base with vertical gusseted support towers on which a spreader can be used to effect a more stable vertical lift.

2 Step chocks are positioned on the opposite side from the lift to offer additional lateral stabilization.
2 Step chocks are positioned on the opposite side from the lift to offer additional lateral stabilization.

Additional features of the patented TL-9 Stabilizer include the following:

  • Base plate-six- by six-inch, half-inch-thick plate steel; compression-tested to 60 tons.
  • Stabilizing towers-four inches high and 2½ inches wide, half-inch steel, with 2½-inch steel gusset supports on each tower; tested for lateral strength to 15 tons with 1⁄8-inch deviation.
  • Rolled limiting pin-5⁄8-inch traveling pin, hardened, travels approximately 15⁄8 inches within the towers; designed to limit the spreader from hyperextending (maximum opening of the spreader is limited to 70 percent); a 5⁄8-inch square steel stock stopper at the front of the plate with a lock slot for the lower tip of the spreader adds a heavy duty spreader tip stop to the device.

Recently, during a new vehicle extrication training program in Ticonderoga, New York, I had the opportunity to take the new TL-9 for a test drive. Simply stated, it does exactly what it purports to do. I have to admit that it was weird to intentionally use a spreader in this fashion, as we’ve always been taught not to lift a vehicle with a spreader. It is vitally important to note that the manufacturers of this product insist that proper cribbing techniques be used (lift an inch, crib an inch) while performing this maneuver with the TL-9. The TL-9 is instantly deployable and has a small footprint for stowage on the apparatus.

3 The TL-9 is positioned with the spreader while additional cribbing is at the ready to crib the lift
3 The TL-9 is positioned with the spreader while additional cribbing is at the ready to crib the lift.

As the students worked through skills stations, it occurred to me to try another application for the TL-9 (one not necessarily endorsed by the manufacturer). Anyone who has spent time doing vertical dash displacements on ultra-high-strength-steel-infused new vehicles knows the challenge of keeping supporting structures (the base of the “A” post and rocker panel) from shredding while attempting to lift the cowl assembly (formerly known as the dash) vertically with a hydraulic rescue spreader. After using the TL-9 to vertically lift the vehicles, a thought came to me while watching a student struggle with this shredding issue. I took the TL-9 and placed it inside the horizontal relief cut at the site of the attempted lift. The six-inch-wide steel base plate of the TL-9 added the perfect amount of additional solid platform to minimize the shredding and maximize the potential for successful vertical lift of the cowl assembly, allowing for foot and leg disentanglement. In the past, we have had to improvise by using other materials (typically, cribbing is sacrificed but not a good base substitute because wood and plastic cribbing are weaker material than that on which we try to anchor to complete the spread/displacement), which were not designed for that purpose. The steel platform of the TL-9 is indeed intended to give the spreader a more stable platform for vertical lifting and spreading, and the ½-inch-thick plate steel proved more than adequate for the intended purpose.

It appears that the new TL-9 will find its way into a number of applications for firefighters that go way beyond the original intention. The tool was developed, patented, and produced by Firefighter Tony Leca of T & J Rescue Enterprises in Connecticut along with spokesperson and contributor Paul DeBartolomeo from Fire Department of New York Truck 28. Their inspiration for the TL-9 was a direct result of the incident listed above and their desire is to prevent that type of tragedy from occurring again.

CARL J. HADDON is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board and the director of Five Star Fire Training LLC, which is sponsored, in part, by Volvo North America. He served as assistant chief and fire commissioner for the North Fork (ID) Fire Department and is a career veteran of more than 25 years in the fire and EMS services in southern California. He is a certified Level 2 fire instructor and an ISFSI member and teaches Five Star Auto Extrication and NFPA 610 classes across the country.

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