TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – In 29 years, Battalion Chief Tom Schwer has never seen anything quite like this. Some call it a miracle. Others call it the most amazing luck ever.
The longtime veteran with Hillsborough Fire Rescue calls it his mission in life – helping others. “When things are bad, we come in and make it better,” Schwer said. On Tuesday, Schwer and his team completed an emotional rescue like no other, and it involved one of their own in the first responder community.
On Tuesday, Schwer and his team completed an emotional rescue like no other, and it involved one of their own in the first responder community.
It all started Tuesday afternoon when Hillsborough motorcycle Deputy Tim Berg was at a red light at Gibsonton Road just off I-75. He had no way of knowing what would happen next. A flatbed utility truck slammed into him from behind. That was just the beginning of his nightmare, one that Berg would endure for hours. The flatbed truck dragged the nine-year veteran deputy 150 feet on his motorcycle, all while ping-ponging off of multiple cars in a chain reaction crash.
When it was all over, the 37-year-old deputy was wedged in the wreckage, panicked and in tremendous pain. He was pinned beneath the utility truck, a pickup truck and his own motorcycle. His arms and legs were pulled like pretzels in every direction, trapping him under the twisted metal. He had an axle crushing his chest. His neck was forced to the side.
Berg couldn’t get out, and he was scared. “We were scared for him. We knew we had to get him out quickly, but carefully. This was a very precarious situation, and it didn’t look good. If we made any wrong move, it would’ve been disastrous,” Schwer said.
Rescue teams from Hillsborough County Fire Rescue and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office had to move inch by inch. In fact, the two trucks and the motorcycle were balancing dangerously on each other like a delicate house of cards. If anything shifted in the wrong direction, the entire pile would have collapsed on the deputy.
There was also the possibility that the gas line could have ripped and ignited. This had to be a slow, methodical process, and it was. It took just over an hour. “We knew he wanted to get out, and we were trying to do this as quickly as possible. I talked to one firefighter who was down there with him, talking to him. At one point, the guy said, ‘I ran out of things to say to him.’ All the deputy needed to know is that we were there, we were supporting him, working to get them out, and there was no way we were going to leave without him,” the battalion chief told us. “We told him, we’re there for you brother, we’re taking care of you.”
The miraculous part of all this is that the deputy got out alive, with minor injuries. The helping hands of the heroes who worked so quickly to extract him safely were the same ones that lifted him onto a stretcher and got him out to a helicopter waiting nearby. The deputy was rushed to Tampa General Hospital, where he is receiving treatment for some cuts on his legs and a possible broken ankle. He is stable and recovering.
“He is a lucky guy. It just wasn’t his time,” Schwer said. “It wasn’t his day to die.”