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Explained: What is the ‘jaws of life’ tool, initially said to have helped rescue Tiger Woods from his wrecked car?

While the ‘jaws of life’ were not used for Tiger Woods' rescue, the initial post resulted in a lot of curiosity about the tool, used by firefighters in thousands of emergency situations in the past.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: February 25, 2021 7:17:40 am
Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods car crash, jaws of life, jaws of life tool, Tiger Woods health update, Tiger Woods car crash update, Tiger Woods latest newsThe ‘jaws of life’ are a hydraulic-extrication rescue tool used in a number of difficult emergency situations, particularly car crashes. (Source: Pixabay)

Golfing legend Tiger Woods was Tuesday involved in a major car accident in Southern California with multiple injuries, local authorities and his agent said. According to an initial statement by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, paramedics used a tool called the ‘jaws of life’ to extricate the athlete from his vehicle. However, they later retracted their statement and clarified that Woods was removed from the wreckage using other tools.

A statement posted on his Twitter account said that Woods is “awake, responsive, and recovering in his hospital room” following an emergency surgery. He underwent a “long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle,” according to Dr. Anish Mahajan, chief medical officer and interim CEO at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

While the ‘jaws of life’ were not used for Woods’ rescue, the initial post resulted in a lot of curiosity about the tool, used by firefighters in thousands of emergency situations in the past.

So, what are the ‘jaws of life’?

The ‘jaws of life’ are a hydraulic-extrication rescue tool used in a number of difficult emergency situations, particularly car crashes. It is most often used to pull drivers and passengers out of damaged vehicles after severe traffic collisions.

The tool, also known as the hydraulic spreader-cutter, was invented by George Hurst in 1961 after he witnessed rescue crew take over an hour to remove race car drivers from wrecked vehicles. IT consists of four main components — cutters, spreaders, rams, and the power source.

Before the tool was invented, first responders generally used saws to cut open car frames after they crashed. These were known to create sparks on occasion, which increased the risk of fires and even explosions. It also took significantly longer to carry out rescue operations.

The Hurst hydraulic tool changed the game by significantly reducing both the risk and time involved with rescue operations following harrowing car crashes. This earned it the nickname ‘jaws of life’, which was later trademarked by the company and used for Hurst products.

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How does it work?

The tool uses a piston system, similar to the one used in car engines. A gasoline or electrical power source pushes hydraulic fluid into one piston, which in turn pushes down a second piston, and in turn applies tremendous pressure into the tool very quickly. There are very few parts involved in making these tools work, which makes them one of the simplest and most unsophisticated hydraulic machinery.

Workers move a vehicle after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles.. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

According to ‘How Stuff Works’, the hydraulic tool uses a phosphate-ester fluid, which is fire resistant and electrically non-conductive. Due to the nature of car crashes, this type of synthetic fluid is preferred over conventional oil.

What was used to rescue Tiger Woods?

Initially Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said that Woods was removed from his vehicle using the ‘Jaws of Life’. “The vehicle was traveling northbound on Hawthorne Boulevard, at Blackhorse Road, when it crashed. The vehicle sustained major damage,” officials said in a statement.

But later, Daryl Osby, the fire chief of the LA Fire Department, later said that a halligan tool and an axe were used to rescue the golf legend.

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