TIVERTON — Robert Forand, a Fall River firefighter “helping a buddy” with some carpentry work on the morning of Wednesday, March 13, fell 18 feet from staging outside a Little Compton house into a basement bulkhead that was eight feet below grade.
After being extricated from that confined space, he was rushed to a baseball field behind the East Road Fire Station in Tiverton. From there, a helicopter airlifted him to Rhode Island Hospital, where he stayed one day and was released. He had fractured his mid-back at the T-11 level.
Mr. Forand returned last Friday to the East Road Fire Station — with his back in a brace — to show his appreciation to the dozen or so rescue workers from Tiverton and Little Compton who saved him that day.
“I just wanted to come by and thank them,” he said later. “They did an excellent job. Very professional. I know what they went through. I feel thankful and grateful.”
Mr. Forand, who lives in Swansea and has almost nine years of firefighting experience himself, knows what it’s like to be in the shoes of the men and women who rescued him.
On March 6 while working a fire in that city, he said, “two guys in my crew got hurt.”
So speaking of the aid he got from the emergency personnel who had gathered to hear from him Friday, he said, “I really appreciate it, and my family says thanks.”
“I had a tough week and the week before,” he told them.
His fall, he said, happened while he was up on staging outside a residence in the 200 block of Long Highway in Little Compton. “A staging plank broke and I fell,” he said.”
“It happened so fast,” he said. As he lay in the bulkhead space, he knew help was on its way. “I couldn’t wait for them to get there. I could hear the sirens coming.”
Little Compton firefighters Fred Melnyk (an EMT/cardiac) and David Nickerson were the first to arrive, shortly joined by Little Compton police officer Caitlin Farrar, who went into the bulkhead area and helped to stabilize Mr. Forand with ropes and ladders, so he could be extricated.
“I knew they’d have a little work getting me out of the hole,” he said.
Mr. Forand said he remembers, “I heard someone ask, ‘how many shirts do you have on?’ I was just relieved.”
He said, “all the way to the hospital, the medevac nurses were really good.”
The brace he wore Friday during his visit with his rescuers allows mobility and walking. He says he’s out-of-work now, and doesn’t know for how long, but says, “I’m hoping I’ll be back to work in June or July.”
Some of his assembled colleagues wondered out loud if it might be longer than that.
“I’m doing well. Sore. Have some bumps and bruises. Can’t get comfortable,” he said.