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5 times “Jaws of Life” saved a life

These stories about Jaws of Life are truly remarkable

The first time Jaws of Life were used as a rescue tool was in 1963 to free drivers from their race cars after crashes. The idea for the tool, however, was born two years earlier in the mind of George Hurst, the founder of the Hurst Performance Product Co.

Jaws of Life has become a name synonymous for spreaders. This article is not an endorsement for any particular manufacturer. Others like Amkus, Champion, Holmatro, Genesis, Power Hawk (and more) also make quality spreaders.

In over 50 years of use, spreaders have saved thousands of lives. Here are some of the heartwarming saves.

1. The car that split in two

In September 2006, Shannon took a trip to the Kirkland, New York to meet a friend. A rainstorm that occurred the day before created slick road conditions. Shannon ignored warnings signs to slow down, and her Chevrolet Cavalier slid off the road and smashed into a tree.

Her car was split in two by metal sheared from her vehicle. Debris narrowly missed Shannon. She was trapped in a space no larger than a child’s toy box and could barely breathe. The situation was worsened by leaking gasoline.

A witness called for help but indicated the crash was so bad he didn’t expect any survivors.

Firefighters arrived on scene and saw signs of life. Equipped with the Jaws of Life, they went to work. It took nearly two hours for the firefighters to cut the vehicle and extract Shannon. Eventually, the rescue team was successful. Shannon was freed and paramedics took over. Though Shannon suffered extensive injuries, she survived the near-fatal crash.

Shannon’s vehicle after the accident (Photo/

2. A two-week old kitten in need

A kitten from Rhode Island was lucky to survive his own curiosity. In 2015, a two-week old kitten given the name Soldier by the rescue crew, somehow managed to fall into the crevices of two boulders. Soldier had been trapped for two days before the homeowners were able to locate the source of his persistent cries.

The Johnston Fire Department arrived on scene and deployed the Jaws of Life. The kitten was rescued in less than a minute. Soldier was placed up for adoption and his permanent owners renamed the lucky kitten Jaws.

Soldier, the kitten who was saved by spreaders (Photo/Johnston Animal Control)

3. A near fatal situation for one family

In November 2015, a family of three went on the trip to the Ottawa, Canada. Winter in Canada was already in full swing, and roads were very icy. The driver of the Suzuki hit black ice and lost the control of the vehicle. The SUV was t-boned by a tractor trailer.

The entire family was trapped beneath the crushed car and they all suffered serious injuries. The passenger seat broke the shoulder of the woman in the car. The male passenger was unconscious due to head injuries, he also suffered a variety of other injuries which eventually resulted in three blood transfusions and several surgeries.The third passenger, a baby, received a skull fracture from the impact.

Firefighters from Kingston Department arrived on scene and were able to extract the family using spreaders in less than an hour. The entire family survived the accident.

Crashed Suzuki (Photo/

4. A police officer rescued

In 2017, two Orange City police vehicles were responding to a stolen vehicle call. One of the vehicles, a Dodge Charger, braked suddenly and attempted to make an urgent u-turn. The other vehicle, an SUV, was unable to respond in time and t-boned the Charger at a speed of 50 miles per hour.

Firefighters spent about 15 minutes extracting officer in the Charger. Once again, Spreaders worked to successfully free a victim of a car accident. Both officers were transported to a local hospital but survived the wreck.

5. Spike’s Story

Southern California firefighters were called to use spreaders to save a dog that wiggled between two storage containers while playing with children at an elementary school.

Spike tried to get out of the situation but instead crawled deeper into the narrow space until he was stuck. The help of firefighters was necessary; they arrived with Jaws of Life and shifted the gap by a few inches. Spike happily ran out of his trap.

The dog, Spike, walked out on his own after firefighters freed him (Photo/Oceanside Fire Department)

The benefits of Jaws of Life are infinite for fire departments. Does your department have a heroic spreaders story? Share your experience in the comments below.

Want to learn more about making rescue saves? Check out 5 Tips for Better Extrication Tool Rescue.