Road traffic accidents (RTAs) with entrapment are perceived as a challenge to emergency systems because of the severity of the ensuing traumas and the inherent complexity of the rescue procedures. To clarify these two aspects this prospective cohort study enrolling 244 entrapped trauma patients was conducted by a Regional Medical Helicopter Service. Forty-six victims (18.9%) were found dead, 101 (51%) of the 198 patients who reached the hospital alive had an injury severity score (ISS) > or = 16. The use of seat belts was associated with lower trauma severity. Out of the 101 severely traumatized patients (ISS > or = 16), 46 (42.6%) were intubated at road side, 12 required decompression of a tension pneumothorax on the scene and in 15 cases a pneumothorax was drained during the early intrahospital phase. Thirty-six (34.7%) patients had the first systolic blood pressure (SBP) < or = 90 mmHg and were then aggressively infused: in 75% of these cases, the SBP on arrival at the emergency department increased. The first SBP was significantly correlated with mortality. There was no correlation of extrication time, total rescue time and mortality. Fourteen patients (13.9%) died during hospitalization. These data demonstrate that a high percentage of entrapped patients require advanced life support (ALS), including on scene intubation and chest decompression. Aggressive field resuscitation and immediate transport to a level 1 trauma centre is associated with a mortality lower than that predicted by TRISS in spite of the prolonged prehospital time.