When disaster strikes and tragedy seems certain, there is only one hope – Critical Rescue – highly trained teams of paramedics, rescuers and doctors. Their jobs are dangerous, their rescues dramatic. But for the victims of a disaster, these courageous men and women are all that stand between life… and death.
New Dominion Pictures presents Critical Rescue, the true stories of emergency rescue and medical teams who battle impossible odds, risking everything to save lives.
Episode 01 – Officer Down
On the morning of February 28, 1997, two police officers in North Hollywood, California are on routine patrol. The officers see two heavily armed men wearing ski masks and body armor entering a bank. As the officers call for backup, Larry Phillips and Emil Matasareanu begin firing automatic weapons. Without body armor or automatic weapons, the police are completely outgunned. One officer tries to run to a better firing position, only to be cut down in the street. He is wounded, completely exposed and caught in the crossfire. One of his fellow officers heroically speeds through the hail of bullets in his police cruiser, hoists the wounded officer into the car and drives him to safety. Thanks to the heroic actions of police and emergency personnel, none of the wounded officers lost their lives.
Episode 02 – Ominous Warning
On October 17, 1989, Sherra Cox leaves work early to unpack in her new apartment. Shortly before 5:00 pm, the building begins to shake. Cox braces against a doorframe as San Francisco is slammed by a 7.1 earthquake. The closet door snaps from its hinges and pins her to the floor. She grabs a pipe lying nearby and bangs it on the door. Outside the collapsed building, firefighters can hear her. Rescuers try to cut their way through the rubble, but a ruptured pipe fills the building with gas. A building across the street explodes, sending fireballs in their direction. Intense heat drives two firemen from the building, but Gerald Shannon refuses to leave. He talks to Sherra Cox, reassuring her, as others pass him equipment to help try and pull her from the collapsing building.
Episode 03 – Fateful Journey
April 24, 2002 is just another workday in Southern California, until the 300 passenger Metrolink No. 809 collides head on with a Burlington Northern freight line. The impact pushes the commuter train 334 feet backwards down the track. Inside, passengers are tossed like rag dolls. On a highway alongside the tracks, passing motorists skid to a stop and bolt from their cars. Coincidentally, a multi-agency casualty training drill is underway nearby. Rescue crews from all over the state have been training to respond to a terrorist attack. Within minutes, hundreds of emergency personnel arrive on the scene to find passengers with broken bones, internal injuries and one critically injured woman who has gone into labor.
Episode 04 – Buried Alive
On the morning of March 30, 1998, Paul Vevesco and Larry Knapp arrive at a construction site in Margot Florida to lay pipe. At exactly 9:30, the workers freeze as they hear an ominous rumbling. Seconds later, the north wall of the trench collapses around them. Vevesco and Knapp are buried to their necks in concrete rubble. Terrified and in pain, the two men silently await death as the trench slowly fills with water. Within minutes, an Advanced Rescue Team is deployed to the scene. Rescuers use high-pressure airbags and air-chisels to try and free the two victims. Both victims sustain serious injuries as rescue teams race against the clock to save their lives.
Episode 05 – Race Against Time
In 2001, hundreds of people pour into the Lonz Winery on Middle Bass Island in Ohio for a Fourth of July celebration. Leon Wyszynski and his wife Mary Jane dine with friends on the terrace. Suddenly, the terrace gives way beneath them. One hundred people plummet 20 feet into the winery’s cellar. JoEllen Ruehle is buried beneath a slab of concrete. Her husband, Ken, has a broken back. Jack Conry, a friend of the Ruehles, is unconscious with a dislocated arm. Joe Phillips is pinned under a drink machine. Mark Reighard is trapped in a mass of concrete. Rescue workers from three different counties converge on the island. A 47-foot Coast Guard motor lifeboat and several Life Flight helicopters also respond to the scene. Physicians and rescue workers rush to stabilize and transport the victims to hospitals.
Episode 06 – When Seconds Count
On June 8th, 1998 the DeBruce Grain Elevator in Haysville, Kansas is preparing for the upcoming wheat harvest. Steven Stallbaumer is working at ground level, loading fertilizer in his truck, when a deafening explosion sends him running for cover. With this much flammable grain dust in the air, the entire complex is a tinderbox. A chain reaction begins in the elevator and spreads to the silos. Explosion after explosion destroy the silo roofs, collapse the gallery and blow away both ends of the massive grain elevator. By the time the dust clears, two men are dead, several employees are severely burned, and four workers are trapped in one of the underground tunnels. Only FEMA’s Urban Search & Rescue team can handle a disaster this big.
Episode 07 – Submerged
On November 22, 1997, Caleb Record drives his friend George Place home from basketball practice. The roads in Newfane, Vermont are slick following an early winter ice storm. Caleb fights to control the car but it’s no use, the vehicle flips over three times and lands upside down in the icy West River. George crawls from the wreck, but Caleb is trapped inside and unconscious. As the car fills with water, George climbs up the embankment and flags down the first car he sees. Miraculously, Rodney Chase and his cousin Jerry Paradis are both members of the First Response Team in St. Petersburg, Florida. The rescuers slide down the embankment and plunge into the freezing river.
Episode 08 – F-5
On the afternoon of May 3, 1999, the National Weather Service issues serious tornado warnings via radio and television for Oklahoma City. Known as “Tornado Alley,” this part of the country receives frequent storm warnings that are often ignored by its many residents. As John & Dixie Szymanski prepare dinner in their new home, meteorologist Gary England broadcasts his most dire warning, “you have to be underground to survive this one.” In a matter of minutes the Szymanski’s and thousands of their fellow Oklahomans would experience and barely survive the fastest recorded wind speeds on earth.
Episode 09 – Thin Ice
On Sunday, December 10, 1995, Tracey Martini scolds her two boys when she catches them playing near Spring Green Pond by their home in Warwick, Rhode Island. She reminds them that the ice on the popular skating pond is not yet frozen enough for them to play on, and if they go onto the ice, they could fall through and drown. That afternoon the boys are playing with two neighborhood friends, and decide to venture out onto the ice. When two boys fall through the ice, a third calls 911, while the fourth tries to help, he too sinks into the pond. Neighbors run out to the pond and encourage the boys to tread water while help comes, but the boys lose consciousness and sink. Responders from the Warwick Fire and Rescue team arrive at the pond and, borrowing a neighbor’s boat, head out on the pond to try and pull the boys to safety.
Episode 10 – Heroes on the Potomac
On January 13, 1982, Washington National Airport is gripped by a mid-winter blizzard. Shortly after liftoff, Air Florida Flight 90 experiences a problem. The nose of the plane pulls up sharply, but it refuses to gain altitude. At 4:01 pm, the jet stalls and dives nose first into the northbound span of the commuter-packed 14th Street Bridge. The 737, along with six automobiles, a boom truck and a 41-foot section of the bridge wall, plummet into the icy waters of the Potomac River. Lenny Skutnik, on his way home from work, jumps into the icy water and begins pulling victims from the wreckage as the D.C. Park Police dispatch helicopters to rescue any survivors.
Episode 11 – Trapped
The Sunshine Mine, near Kellogg, Idaho became the setting of one of the worst hard-rock mining disasters of the 20th Century. Dubbed a “hot mine” due to its extreme temperatures of over 100 degrees in the tunnels, the very dry mine caught fire one morning, and began circulating deadly smoke and carbon monoxide gas through the tunnels where almost 200 men were working. Two young miners were trapped, 4,800 feet below the surface, kept alive only by a small “borehole,” which temporarily allowed fresh air into the mine. Without food and water, rescuers would have to work quickly to get to the trapped miners before the poisonous fumes and intense temperatures did, or they too would succumb to the same fate as 91 of their fellow minors.
Episode 12 – Camille’s Wrath
Sunday night, August 17, 1969, one of the strongest hurricanes to make landfall in the United States struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast with devastating results. Hurricane warnings were all over the television and radio stations, and it was strongly suggested by news anchors that people evacuate. A group of friends decided to remain and have a “hurricane party” at the Richelieu Apartments on the coast of Pass Christian, Mississippi. Twenty-four gathered on the 3rd floor of the apartment complex. The hurricane slammed into the apartment complex, smashing every unit into pieces. Only three people survived.
Episode 13 – Swept Away
The night of October 16, 1998 will long be remembered as one of the worst nights of flooding in Texas history. When the rescue team sent to warn residents of the rising creeks and rivers is stranded by rushing waters, Edwin Baker and his Emergency Rescue Team, employing inflatable Zodiac boats and helicopters, are sent in. Raging currents, howling wind and rain, make the nightlong search and rescue effort that much more difficult. Rescuers must battle the elements to save victims suffering from hypothermia stranded in overturned vehicles and flooded houses.
Episode 14 – Firestorm
On rolling hills overlooking Oakland, California, thousands of expensive homes were crowded into a lush urban forest. The only way in or out of this little paradise was a series of steep, narrow, winding roads. The signs of an impending catastrophe loomed large. Most of the homes in this area were built with wood frames and untreated wood-shingled roofs. They sat amongst thick flammable vegetation. On Saturday, October 19, 1991 the temperature was very hot and extremely dry, Oakland was in its fifth year of a drought when then the fires began. The final toll of this disaster: over a hundred people were injured, 25 died including 11 on Charing Cross Road. Over three thousand houses, along with more than 400 apartments were leveled. Two square miles of land was scorched; in all over a billion and half dollars worth of damage.