PENN TWP — A garage owner and one of his mechanics were seriously injured Thursday morning when they were pinned under a car and hydraulic lift during a repair job.
John Brown, 58, owner of Brown’s Garage on Meridian Road in Penn Township was flown by medical helicopter to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh with head, neck and leg injuries, authorities said.
Brown’s employee, Richard Bowser, 37, of Butler, was taken by ambulance to Butler Memorial Hospital before he, too, was flown to AGH. Bowser appeared to have head, neck and chest injuries, witnesses said.
“They were pretty bad off,” said Bob Kane of Butler, another mechanic who was working and helped rescue the others. “Me? I was real scared.”
Middlesex Township police Sgt. Randy Ruediger described both men’s injuries as “severe but not life-threatening.” Their conditions were not known as of Friday morning.
The accident happened about 10:30 a.m. as Brown and Bowser were lowering a 2001 Honda Accord down from a 10-foot hydraulic scissor lift.
“One of the hydraulic hose lines broke on the lift and the car tipped over,” said state police Cpl. Timothy Morando. “One guy was pinned under the car and the other was under the (lift).”
Morando, a former Penn Township police officer, was on duty in a cruiser nearby when he heard the radio call and immediately headed to Brown’s garage, which he knows well.
“I went to lend first aid if it was needed,” he said.
Moments before the accident, Brian Cook of Pittsburgh was standing just 5 or 6 feet from the lift and the car, which he owns.
A repeat customer at the garage, Cook had taken his Honda in for muffler work about 45 minutes earlier.
“They were done with the car and lowering it, then I heard a pop,” Cook said. “For a split second I saw (the lift) moving. I started to run and it just fell.”
The lift collapsed, causing the driver’s side of the car to slide off. Brown was under the front of the lift and Bowser was standing on the car’s driver side, toward the back.
“I saw the car fall on (the mechanic),” Cook said. The man was pinned down on his left side.
Cook rushed in and did what he could, by hand.
“I grabbed the back door window on the driver’s side and lifted up the car,” he recounted. “It only moved an inch or two but I think that got the pressure off (Bowser).”
For his viewpoint, he couldn’t see or hear Brown.
“I thought like me, he had run and gotten out of there,” Cook said.
But Kane, who was nearby, saw Brown in a frightening predicament.
“His neck was under the (lift) rack,” Kane said.
Both injured men were pleading for help.
“They were yelling, ‘Get me out of here. Get me out of here. I’m hurt. Get me out of here.’” Kane said. “John was really shook up.”
While Cook still had hold of the car, Kane ran in with a hand jack that he used to prop up the driver’s side.
Next, he wrapped chains under the car’s frame and connected the chains to a pickup truck hitch and skid steer. Those makeshift emergency vehicles were used to pull the weight of the car and lift off the injured men.
A PennDOT crew working on a road project nearby also hurried to the scene to help.
A Butler Ambulance Service crew was there within minutes of the call and began treating the men.
“John was conscious but he told me that he didn’t remember anything,” Morando said. “That tells me that he was probably unconscious at one point.”
Authorities said along with serious head and neck injuries, Brown had an open fracture of the left leg.
Bowser also appeared badly hurt.
“He had blood around his ear and neck,” Cook said. “But at least he was moving his legs.”