PGFD Beltway crash update: West Lanham Hills VFD Chief John Alter disputes police account of how collision occurred. Says no U-turn at I-95/495 emergency turn-around.

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Extensive series of photographs from Beltway crash scene from Todd Sherman, Northern Illinois FireGround Photos

Jennifer Donelan, WJLA-TV:

Tonight the West Lanham fire chief is disputing the official account of what caused a crash that injured seven people in a Beltway crash, including four firefighters.

One of those men underwent hours of surgery to have his arm re-attached after the rollover crash.

Chief John Alter said he can’t stand by and watch his guys take the blame for something he says they didn’t do. One of their own was critically hurt in this accident but there is another black cloud hanging over this station.

West Lanham Hills VFD Chief John Alter.

Volunteer firefighter. Lt. Ryan Emmons, 30, continues to recover after his arm was severed early Wednesday morning during an accident involving his fire engine and a tractor trailer.

Instead of complete relief, Alter said there is great angst.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Prince George’s County Police released their preliminary findings on the accident which had the Beltway closed for hours, saying the fire engine was just leaving an accident call when it tried to make a U-turn at an emergency vehicle access point.

West Lanham Hills VFD Lt. Ryan Emmons.

Police say the engine collided with a tractor trailer, which sources say had the right of way. The two trucks slid into the median and hit a Jeep SUV. In all, seven people were hurt, including four firefighters.

Three of those firefighters have been released from an area hospital, County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said.

“We just believe that they were attempting to make a U-turn on 495,” says Lt. William Alexander, a PGPD spokesperson.

Scene photos by Todd Sherman, Northern Illinois FireGround Photos, who was riding with Kentland VFD on Wednesday morning.

“Were they making a U-turn?” asks Alter. “No ma’am, they were not. They were slowing down for a call.”

Alter says his four firefighters were driving on the inner loop of the Beltway and just as they arrived at an accident call, which was on the opposite side, dispatch told them they weren’t needed.

Alter says his guys who had slowed down were about to continue forward on the inner loop and head home when he said the driver looked behind him and noticed a tractor trailer bearing down on him. He says the driver pushed on the gas to speed up.

“I credit the driver of the apparatus for saving my fellow firefighters’ lives,” Alter says.

Alter says the semi slammed right into the back of the engine. When showed a photo ABC7 obtained, the chief explained if the engine had been making a U-turn there would be damage on the driver’s side.

Alter says the engine driver, an Afghanistan war vet, was first to reach Emmons and he wrapped eEmmons’ arm in a tourniquet and stopped the bleeding.

Alter says the engine driver didn’t put lives at risk, he saved lives.

“We have a long recovery to go,” Alter says. “I can’t wait for this erroneous report to go away, so we can get back to serving the community.”

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