By Angeljean Chiaramida
SALISBURY — A 25-year veteran Salisbury firefighter was critically injured yesterday afternoon when a jack slipped while he was repairing a vehicle behind the fire station, bringing to the station his fellow firefighters, who worked desperately to rescue him.
Merrimac fire Chief Ralph Spencer spoke on behalf of Salisbury fire Chief Rick Souliotis, who had gone to Boston to be with his injured firefighter. Although Spencer refused to identify the victim by name, he described him as "a lieutenant and the department mechanic," hurt while he performed maintenance on a department vehicle. Spencer said the victim was alive, but seriously injured, and had been airlifted to a Boston hospital.
According to the Salisbury Fire Department's website, Spencer's description points to Salisbury Fire Lt. Timothy Oliveira, a well-respected and dedicated firefighter. Spencer said the victim's wife and family had been notified, and they were on their way to Boston with Souliotis. A town official privately confirmed that the victim was Oliveira.
When questioned about the incident, Spencer refused to give any details, saying the accident is under investigation. According to Salisbury police, the incident is being handled by the state police.
Salisbury officials refused to discuss what happened.
When the emergency call went out, police and emergency responders sped to the scene yesterday about 1 p.m., working feverishly to free Oliveira, who was pinned under the vehicle. Police in Salisbury and Newburyport stopped traffic along Route 1, in both Salisbury Square and at the Gillis Bridge to clear the way for the ambulance to get through. Oliveira was taken to Anna Jaques Hospital and later airlifted to Beth Israel hospital in Boston.
Oliveira and his family have a long history of providing service to the town and people of Salisbury. Oliveira's father was police chief in Salisbury for years, and Timothy Oliveira is one of the small nucleus of full-time firefighters in Salisbury's mostly on-call department.
Salisbury's firefighters looked stunned and worried as they clustered together in front of their fire station yesterday. As word spread quickly, firefighters from surrounding communities converged on Salisbury, not only to provide station coverage, but also to console their brother firefighters and hope for the best.
Police cordoned off the area around the fire station and prevented the public from going behind the station, where the accident occurred.