Thanks to their air bags, an elderly couple survived a 15-foot plunge off an embankment of Elkader Street near the Southern Oregon University science building Wednesday.
The late model Chevy Classic sedan mowed down a group of small trees and ended up on its right side about 10 feet from the southwest corner of the science building, where a class was in progress.
A dozen Ashland Fire & Rescue workers struggled for almost an hour to get them out. Rescue workers roped the car's axle to an iron fence by the sidewalk so it wouldn't roll over on them as they clambered to get inside the car and free the pair.
Paul and Elizabeth Daugherty were conscious and talking after the crash, and were taken to Ashland Community Hospital for a checkup. The woman was able to walk, with help, to the ambulance, while her husband was carried by stretcher.
"It's a tricky corner," said their daughter Laura Daugherty, referring to a curve on a steep downward pitch to Iowa Street. "We've lived on Elkader 30 years, but it can be icy, and a lot of times students spot a parking space here and block the road, making U-turns to get it."
Rescue workers jammed "crib" stabilizers under the car, said spokeswoman Margueritte Hickman.
"If the car's not stable, it could cause injuries to rescuers, and that doesn't help when you're trying to get patients out," she said. "That's why we're not operating very fast. We have to think this out as we go."
The car crashed at 9:21 a.m. and was not stabilized till 9:59 a.m., she said. Rescuers and tow truck operators left the car on its side while they extracted the couple at 10:12 a.m.
"Our main concern is which option is going to create the least challenge for the patients," Hickman said.
As tow workers yanked the car back up the hill, she added, "The success of the operation was because of the safety factors and no rescuers suffered any injuries."
Hickman later said in a news release the couple received minor injuries in the crash.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.