The Pulse / Proud to be WMC

At our front door: Emergency staff describes response to tragic crash into hospital

By kbleizeffer Sep 26, 2014

Most of the Emergency Department at the hospital on Sunday responded to the crash on Second Street. The five who offered their perspectives include Jonica Fields, paramedic student at Casper College, from left; Amy Sorensen, registered nurse; Tami Scott, paramedic; Rayne Bushnell, EMT; and Sara Frank, registered nurse.

Most of the Emergency Department at the hospital on Sunday responded to the crash on Second Street. The five offering their perspectives here include Jonica Fields, paramedic student at Casper College (from left); Amy Sorensen, registered nurse; Tami Scott, paramedic; Rayne Bushnell, EMT; and Sarah Frank, registered nurse.

The crash rattled the hospital, and patients and staff reported feeling it on the ICU, five floors up. It was just after 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, minutes after the day shift ended for paramedics, ER nurses and EMTs. As they wound down and conferred with coworkers, a green Chevrolet Cavalier crashed into the stone and concrete sign on the hospital’s northeast side. Two of the car’s passengers died, and a third was treated for critical injuries.

Almost all of the entire emergency department responded. Below, five of the responders -- a paramedic, two registered nurses, an EMT and a Casper College paramedic student -- tell us what happened, in their own words.

Tami Scott, paramedic: I was just getting off of day shift and we got a call up in headquarters: Get an ambulance down in front of the hospital ASAP. One of our paramedics brought the ambulance, and I and a couple of other paramedics ran down. Our job is emergency medicine. As paramedics, that’s what we do. And we’re real good at it. The kind of scene we came upon was something we deal with almost on a daily basis. We just went into action and started triaging patients and taking care of them and working on the most critical.

It was a good thing we were there because the night shift got slammed at pretty much the same time and were called out. The sooner you can get to the patient, the better the outcome. If this would have been further out, then it may not have been the outcome that we had. Time is critical.

Family and friends created this makeshift memorial at the site of the crash. It includes  flowers, candles and personal notes to the victims.

Family and friends created this makeshift memorial at the site of the crash. It includes flowers, candles and personal notes to the victims.

Amy Sorensen, ER registered nurse: I was working day shift and I had just gotten off. I saw one of our techs run back here and say there’s been an accident out front. At first, I didn’t really think much of it, thinking it’s a 30-mile-per-hour zone. I started trotting out there to see what we could do to help, then I saw people running by with gurneys, and I knew it was pretty serious.

Normally when our ambulance goes out on calls, we have an idea of what’s coming in. They tell us they are bringing in this many patients in what kind of condition and how many minutes out. But we had no warning with this. Day and night shift for the nurses, we are always on separate shifts. I thought we pulled it together very well, and had awesome teamwork for never getting to work together.  I think we were all very fortunate that the medics were just getting off shift, the nurses were just getting off shift, so we had both day and night shift here to respond. Instead of half of what could have been.

Rayne Bushnell, ER EMT: I was up in triage when the valet parking attendant came running in and screaming they needed help. Respiratory came running at me saying they needed suction and collars. I just started grabbing equipment and ran outside. Immediately I knew there was not much I could do. The paramedics were there the nurses were there. I just kept running in and running back out with whatever they needed.

It was a massive response, pretty much everyone in the ER. The ER was full, but we made space. We were fortunate to have beds open.

For me it was worse just because it's the door I use to go home. It was right there. The minute you walked out it was just in your face. It made it really hard and emotional.

Jonica Fields, paramedic student from Casper College: It was my first traumatic accident. I do have to say, that once you get out there, you actually do know what to do. It’s not the classroom. It felt good actually knowing how to do something without the teacher or preceptor telling me what to do. But without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did.

Sarah Frank, ER registered nurse: It was pretty chaotic, but it was a controlled chaos. Several of us nurses ran out there, and the paramedics had already shown up. We got a first view of what an accident scene is like for them. Being an ER nurse, we are in the trenches here; were don’t often get to see what paramedics see. We were able to work in their situation just like when we need help in the ER, they can come in and help us.

We managed the patients, their airways and making sure they were taken care of, and forgetting about the destruction from the accident. The nurses worked together with the paramedics and fire department, so we got to work on the outside and really see how we all come together. It showed that our care doesn’t stop at these doors.

Many of us call the hospital our second home, and this happened in our front yard. Having Wyoming Medical Center here in our community, it’s things like this that prove that we are a Level II Trauma Center. We are able to take care of anything and everything at anytime of the day. It doesn’t matter where it happens – whether it’s right outside our front door or an hour out on 20/26 -- we can care for you.

For more: The Casper Star-Tribune's Lillian Schrock interviewed witnesses and ER staff for this story.

K2TV's Matthew Seedorff talked to several of our ER responders for this next-day report.