By SDF Firefighter Gary Durian, Los Angeles County Fire Department
Baxter and I were deployed on the night of April 1, 2009 to a traffic accident in the city of La Cañada-Flintridge. At approximately 6 p.m., a truck loaded with vehicles was driving down Angeles Crest Highway—a steep mountain road—and was unable to stop where the road ends at Foothill Boulevard. The truck smashed through several cars in the intersection before driving through a bookstore. The entire truck, with the exception of the last five feet of the trailer, was inside the bookstore. Two people inside one of the vehicles were killed, and twelve others at the scene were sent to the hospital.
We searched the vehicle with the two fatalities to make sure no survivors had been trapped under the wreckage. A baby was unaccounted for. The roof had already been removed and the car was severely damaged. The two victims were still in the vehicle, covered with blankets. This was the first time Baxter had been exposed to recently deceased victims in a true deployment setting. Baxter searched the entire car, confirming that no live victims had been missed. We then searched the bookstore and the cab of the truck. SDF handler Ron Horetski was also at the incident (unfortunately, without his partner, Pearl) and worked closely with Baxter and me. Baxter cleared the store and truck in approximately 15 minutes. No live victims were found, but Baxter did an excellent job with full focus on the job at hand.