SALISBURY — Speaking yesterday for the first time, Salisbury officials released preliminary details of Friday's accident that claimed the life of 27-year veteran Salisbury firefighter Lt. Timothy Oliveira.
Town Manager Neil Harrington spoke of the incident yesterday after getting a report from Salisbury Emergency Management director Bob Cook, who was called to the Salisbury Fire Station during the ordeal.
Harrington said Oliveira was in charge of vehicle maintenance at the department. He was changing the oil on the fire department's Ford Explorer behind the Lafayette Road fire station Friday afternoon when the accident occurred. He had jacked up the vehicle from the front end and was under the vehicle lying on his back on a low, wheeled board commonly used by mechanics to roll themselves under cars, when the jack malfunctioned, Harrington said.
"Somehow, the jack failed, and the car landed on his chest," Harrington said. "He was found by a Salisbury firefighter at about 12:40 or 12:45 (p.m.). When he was found, he was unresponsive."
Firefighters at the station raced to extricate Oliveira from under the Explorer. They lifted the vehicle off him and finding Oliveira was not breathing, began CPR immediately to resuscitate him, Harrington said. Because the engine of the Explorer was hot from being run prior to working on it, Oliveira also had burns on his chest.
AMR ambulance was called and originally took Oliveira to Anna Jaques Hospital, Harrington said. Soon after, Anna Jaques called for a medical helicopter transport to airlift Oliveira to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Harrington said Oliveira was breathing and had a pulse when he was airlifted to Boston. He died Sunday.
Harrington lauded the firefighters who fought through their emotions to come to the aid of their colleague.
"Everyone responded as they should have, from the first person who found Tim, to those who worked on him afterward," Harrington said. "They found the inner resolve to act appropriately. They responded as they would to any citizen in Salisbury who needed them. It's amazing what those guys did under the most extreme circumstances."
Friday evening and Saturday, news from those at the hospital was that Oliveira was holding his own, and Harrington was encouraged by those reports. But on Sunday about 2 p.m., Cook called to tell him that Oliveira had taken a turn for the worse. He died shortly after around 3 p.m. with family and colleagues present.
Harrington said that even though department personnel were traumatized, "all the standard procedures were followed" concerning the accident.
The local branch of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration was called to the accident scene, but town officials quickly learned that OSHA doesn't handle municipal accidents.
The state fire marshal's office was called in, as was the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the state police accident investigative team, he said.
"They arrived, cordoned off the area and began an investigation that is still ongoing," Harrington said.
In addition, a group of professionals who assist with firefighter-related accidents responded. At their recommendation, the Salisbury firefighters who were on duty when the accident happened were relieved, he said.
Also relieved of duty were firefighters on Sunday, who were working when the notice of Oliveira's passing first came in.
On Friday, Amesbury and Merrimac fire departments responded with men and engines to Salisbury's fire station to provide coverage. Later in the evening, Newburyport relieved Amesbury, Harrington said.
Other departments have also rushed to Salisbury's aid.
"The response from (regional) fire departments has been amazing," Harrington said.
Also commending the region's fire-fighting community for their generous assistance in Salisbury's time of need was Selectman Fred Knowles, chairman of the board.
"Mutual aid has been overwhelming," Knowles said yesterday. "We've had offers of help from departments from Portsmouth (N.H.) to Essex, Mass., and everywhere in-between."
Although many are speculating as to the exact extent of Oliveira's injuries and the cause of death, Harrington said that is still to be determined.
"The state fire marshal's office contacted the state medical examiner, and I'm told an autopsy is to be performed," Harrington said.
Harrington also made a plea to the public for patience and to give Oliveira's family the privacy it needs during this difficult time, as well as those in the Salisbury fire-fighting community who are suffering through the tragedy.
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For Oliveira's complete obituary, see Page 5.
Hundreds expected to attend Oliveira funeral
Arrangements have been finalized concerning the funeral and burial of Salisbury fire Lt. Timothy Oliveira.
Visitors may call at the Paul C. Rogers Funeral Home at 2 Hillside Ave., in Amesbur, on Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m.
On Thursday morning at 10:30, a funeral Mass will be said at Amesbury's Holy Family Church on School St.
According to Salisbury Town Manager Neil Harrington, prior to the funeral Mass services on Thursday morning at Rogers Funeral Home will be private and for family only.
A funeral procession will take Oliveira from Rogers Funeral Home to Holy Family Church a quarter-mile away. Harrington said that Oliveira will be accorded the full honors given to a fallen firefighter.
"I don't know how many firefighters there will be, but there will be several hundred," Harrington said.
Burial will take place following the Mass at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Amesbury, and a reception will follow at St. Joseph's Hall, right beside Holy Family Church, he said.
Harrington said there will be a memorial fund established in Oliveira's honor. Contributions may be made to The Provident Bank, Timothy J. Oliveira Memorial Fund, PO Box 37, Attn: Anne Bonaventura, Amesbury, MA 01913.