A Hamburg teenager who drove his SUV off Old Lakeview Road early Sunday and plummeted about 90 feet to the bottom of an embankment suffered, incredibly, only minor injuries, a Hamburg fire official reported.
The 17-year-old likely was saved when the Land Rover's air bags deployed as the vehicle landed front-first at the base of the ravine, Hamburg Village Fire Chief David P. O'Brien said. The driver was found sitting on top of his sport utility vehicle by the first firefighters who responded.
"He was extremely lucky," O'Brien said later Sunday.
The teen was driving south on Old Lakeview, near Engel Drive, at about 1 a.m. when he lost control and drifted across the northbound lane, according to the fire chief.
He drove through a guardrail, traveled another 5 or 6 feet on the shoulder of Old Lakeview and then went off the edge of the road and into the Eighteen Mile Creek ravine.
The SUV plummeted first to the bottom of the embankment, setting off the air bags. It wasn't clear whether the force of the air bags pushed the teen out of the SUV or whether he got out on his own.
A neighbor who heard the crash and the driver's cries for help called 911,O'Brien said.
Several firefighters and a paramedic from Rural/Metro Medical Services were able to get down to the teen to check on his condition, but it took about three hours before firefighters could rig a litter to raise him from the ravine.
He was fitted with a neck collar and strapped to a backboard as precautions, O'Brien said. He was treated at the scene and taken to Erie County Medical Center with what the fire chief described as "very minor" injuries.
"The only [pain] that he was complaining about was the impact of the air bag," O'Brien said.
Lake Erie Towing was able to pull the Land Rover out of the ravine. The SUV is a total loss, the fire chief said, but it did its job.
"That's what we said -- Land Rover should come out and do a commercial with the vehicle," O'Brien said.
Highland Hose Fire Company and the North Evans Fire Company High Angle Rescue Team, along with Rural/Metro Medical Services, also responded to the crash.
Hamburg police are investigating why the teen lost control of his SUV, O'Brien said, and it's possible he was driving too fast for the road conditions at that point.
The Hamburg police shift supervisor working late Sunday morning said he was barred by department policy from providing even basic details about the incident.
He said any such information must come from Hamburg police Capt. Kevin A. Trask, the department's public information officer, who was not working Sunday.
Trask did not return a phone message left at his home.