Helicopters play crucial role in bus crash response
September 3, 2014 By The Vancouver Sun
Sept. 3, 2014, Vancouver - For three hours, Sue Gordon watched as a massive rescue operation unfolded after a tour bus carrying 56 people flipped on the Coquihalla Highway Thursday afternoon. As she was getting ready to continue her trip home to Tsawwassen, she bent down to pull off a bloody piece of paper that had blown against her leg.
Flipping it over, she could see it was an ambulance dispatch order. It read 3:05 p.m.
her lay the horrifying evidence of a crash that pulled that one
ambulance, along with many more, from all over lower British Columbia to
help with one of the biggest mass-casualty accidents in recent history.
Against the backdrop of a broken and blood-spattered tour bus,
bloody papers, clothes and glass from blown-out windows littered the
ground. Above Gordon, air ambulance helicopters clattered in to pick up
the injured. They left just as rapidly, headed for Kamloops, Kelowna and
New Westminster. The northbound lanes of the highway served as a
makeshift helicopter landing zone, while the southbound side around the
bus was a virtual parking lot of ambulances and fire trucks.
Volunteer doctors worked with paramedics and local firefighters,
triaging the worst injured first and making sure even the walking
wounded — and there were many of them — each had a companion or
volunteer to sit with them as they waited for help.
All of the
passengers and the driver aboard the Vancouver-bound tour bus that
rolled on its side 30 kilometres south of Merritt were injured. Some
suffered only minor bumps and bruises, but seven were critically injured
and another six suffered serious injuries.
The accident triggered
an astonishing rescue effort throughout southern B.C. No less than six
hospitals treated the injured, three of them halted other services to
declare a Code Orange, a “stop what you are doing” message that pauses
everything while the hospitals consider how to handle the impending
Nineteen ambulances from nine communities, as far away as
Agassiz and Barriere, flooded into the area. Six air ambulance
helicopters — with a seventh on its way before being called off — landed
on the hastily closed high mountain highway in order to ferry the worst
wounded to waiting emergency rooms.