Firefighters react to I-44 pileup

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo - "It was kind of like an organized chaos," Captain Rick Fletcher said as he thought back to the way the Marshfield Fire Department and other first responders handled the worst car crash in Southwest Missouri's history.

Sunday's 60 car pileup left multiple people injured and hundreds stranded on I-44 as snow and ice covered the interstate.

"It was an accident bigger than any of us have ever seen. I have been in this for 34 years and I have never seen one this big," said Fred Savage, the Fire Chief at the Conway Volunteer Fire Department.

Savage and Fletcher said their respective fire departments welcomed a quiet Monday after being on the I-44 crash scene for over 6 hours.

Eddie Vasey is one of the Conway Volunteer Firefighters who responded to the pileup and said one of the hardest parts was getting access to people stuck in cars.

"There was multiple people, about 40 people who were walking around injured so we had to assess them quickly and then get our equipment and get to the vehicles that need our help and that had people trapped. We were having to crawl under semi's and go around all these obstacles and try to get people who were stuck in their cars," Vasey said.

The tools Vasey described weighted more than 50 pounds and needed a 100 pound generator to function. Despite the obstacles, Vasey said the rescues were a success.

"You don't realize you are prepared for that type of thing until it happened. But, I was really happy with how it went down," Fletcher added.

Chief Savage said Conway Fire and other local agencies will use this new experience as a learning opportunity so they are better prepared in the future.

"Everybody will come together later this weekend have that hot wash and talk about the good things and bad things that happened and what we need to change. So when this happens next time we know how to have a quicker or better response. That is what it is all about. Whatever we have to do to save lives," Savage said.

Firefighters say good communication helped make Sunday successful. The drone footage of the crash will be submitted to the Missouri State Highway Patrol to be used as a training tool.