John Cudgma, a career firefighter, was on duty at Branford fire headquarters shortly before noon on Sunday when the call came in. The report described a serious accident involving a lone truck that went out of control on steep Branford Hill on West Main Street. It turned out that Cudgma’s brother, Kevin, was the driver.
Kevin Cudgma’s white Ford SVT-150 pick-up had crossed the divide and slammed head-on into a utility pole, nearly slicing it and his truck in half. He was nearly crushed inside the car, pinned down, unable to move. The accident, perhaps due to mechanical problems, occurred as the truck was approaching Orchard Hill Road. Traffic would be stopped for the next three hours, police said.
Within minutes of the accident, John Cudgma and a special fire department emergency team arrived at the scene. It was then that John Cudgma found his brother, Kevin, 46, trapped in a pick-up that had crashed in around him, according to Police Capt. Geoffrey Morgan. Under sweltering and difficult conditions, the fire department’s medical team, including John Cudgma, worked for the next 63 minutes with heavy equipment to extricate Kevin Cudgma from the truck.
Kevin Cudgma’s condition was not immediately known, but officials indicated that he had suffered injuries to his legs. At one point, under a fire department emergency program with Yale-New Haven Hospital, a surgeon arrived at the truck in the event that life-saving emergency surgery had to be performed at the scene. As it turned out, the Branford medical squad, working under intense pressure, extricated Cudgma from the pick-up, which had flattened against his body. He was taken to Yale-New Haven where a spokesman said today that his condition was listed as fair.
Kevin Cudgma, the owner of an electronics company in Branford, is a car buff; one of his hobbies is classic cars. He helped oversee the classic car cruise event at the Branford Festival this year. His pick-up appears to be a newer model, police said, but they were not certain.
The cause of his accident is not yet known but visible skid marks at the scene indicate Kevin Cudgma was desperately trying to stop his pick-up. He finally came to a stop when the car careened into a curve and hit the utility pole. Several firefighters suffered cuts and bruises during the difficult extrication process, officials said.
Sgt. Richard Dahlin, who is supervising the investigation, said that preliminary reports indicate that Kevin Cudgma’s vehicle may have been experiencing mechanical problems at the time of the crash. “At this point we intend on impounding the vehicle and having it examined by mechanics to determine if mechanical failures were a factor in the crash,” Dahlin said.
Anyone who may have witnessed the incident is asked to contact Officer John Cassella at 203-481-4241.