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Narrow escape for Brooklandville couple pinned by trees toppled by Irene

Andrea Gottschalk and Todd Jarrard took all the necessary precautions for Hurricane Irene.

They bought a 5-gallon jug of water, stocked up on ice and moved their cars to separate sides of the house so a fallen tree in the wooded area surrounding their newly rented house wouldn't take out both vehicles.

Still, a time came when all they could do was go to sleep and hope for the best. Early Sunday morning, they had a rude awakening.

An oak tree crown snapped off its trunk high above the two-story house, and on its way down, broke off parts of two other trees, sending a tangle of timber crashing through the ceiling and onto the bed.

Both were pinned beneath the weight of the trees and ceiling beams that collapsed on them.

Jarrard used a broken piece of 2x4 as a wedge to lift a beam pinning Gottschalk. He was unable to free himself.

With the storm still swirling, Gottschalk climbed through the mess of brush and debris to get help.

"I ran to the neighbors and pounded on the door, but I didn't get a response," she said. "So I ran back and was able to get into the kitchen, where I had my cell phone, and called 911."

Rescuers were dispatched at 3:34 a.m. A dispatcher remained on the line with Gottschalk for 14 minutes as she monitored his condition.

"He was in a lot of pain," she said. "I was trying to keep him alert and awake. I just kept talking to him, trying to joke around with him. I was just trying to keep him calm."

While Gottschalk was taken to the hospital to have her injuries tended to — she received seven stitches above her right eye and three on her left ankle, and sustained severe bruising on her right hip — rescue crews were firing up their saws, beginning a complicated rescue effort for Jarrard.

The Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company was the first at the scene, though a fallen tree on Stevenson Road delayed their arrival.

Baltimore County's Advanced Tactical Rescue Team, based out of Texas Station, in Cockeysville, also responded, along with Engine 14 from Brooklandville and a crew from the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company.

Upon arrival, the incident commander, Lt. Larry Goldberg of the Pikesville company, said responders could barely see the bedroom, which was in an addition behind the house. His crew was unsure of how to reach Jarrard.

"He was yelling for us, but all we could see was the tree and debris on top of him," Goldberg said. "But we could hear him."

Rescue crews used a jack to stabilize the tree and, limb by limb, pieced out the fallen trees to get closer to Jarrard.

"We were able to get one of our guys in next to him to talk to him a little bit while we were cutting," Goldberg said. "He was conscious, but he was in a lot of pain. He talked to us the whole time, and as we were doing things that were relieving his pain, he was telling us."

Crews cut through brush and chunks of house to make visual contact with Jarrard. After cutting one final ceiling rafter away, they stabilized Jarrard and used air bags to lift the tree and free him.

Jarrard was freed at about 5 a.m., according to county reports. He was transported to University of Maryland Shock Trauma, where he underwent surgery on Sunday for a severelybroken leg.

During the ordeal, Gottschalk was convinced that their lab and terrier mix, Midnight, had been crushed beneath the timber.

"Normally, she sleeps in the bedroom with us," Gottschalk said. "I didn't hear anything from her. I didn't hear any whimpering, so I just assumed she was dead. I was very shocked to hear that not only was she alive, but a paramedic took her home."

Once she was released from Sinai Hospital Sunday afternoon, a police officer brought Gottschalk to see Jarrard before his surgery.

Monday evening, Gottschalk said the surgery was successful.

"He's recovering," she said. "He's alert, doing much better. They're probably going to keep him here for a couple of days, though."

The couple moved from Michigan three weeks ago for Gottschalk's new teaching job inHarford County, which pushed back the first day of school Monday and Tuesday because of the storm.

She said that everyone, from emergency personnel to her new boss who offered clothing and support, has been "just wonderful," though Sunday morning's events made her former home look a little better in hindsight.

"Michigan might have snow, but at least it doesn't have hurricanes," she said.

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