Managing multiple injuries in a foggy, six-car pileup
One car was under the tractor trailer and six others were piled up behind with people in various forms of injury, inside and outside of their vehicles
By Leland Lee
It was a foggy morning when I left early for work; a non-duty day working a second job.
The commute was 45 minutes up a foggy four-lane river road. The news was alerting everyone of dense fog, but it was worse than I had imagined. Listening to the news, hoping for no accidents, suddenly I saw brake lights in front of me. Pulling into the grassy median I immediately saw a tractor trailer had crossed the south bound lanes turning into a factory entrance.
What was on the other side was horrific.
One car was under the tractor trailer and six others were piled up behind with people in various forms of injury, inside and outside of their vehicles. Knowing that we were in between a major city with paid rescue and smaller cities with volunteer fire/rescue, I knew I needed to triage quickly and help as many as I could until rescue arrived.
Directing lay people that could help to have the walking injured sit on the side of the road away from any traffic, I immediately went to check on the patient in the car under the tractor trailer. Obviously his chest had hit the steering wheel and he was suffering from pneumothorax plus entrapment.
A maintenance employee from the plant that the truck was trying to enter ran out and asked how he could help.
“Do you have an oxygen tank or first aid kit?” He had both but no tubing for the tank.
“Please bring what tubing will connect and a pry bar.” We pried as much as we could to relieve tension from his chest, and gave blow-by oxygen from our make-shift oxygen supply.
Thank goodness a volunteer fire department arrived within 20 minutes and notified responding units from the larger town of our mass casualty incident and the need for more help, with a helicopter if possible. Fog being so dense, it was doubtful we would get a helicopter, but the helicopter crew took a chance, came to the scene, landing in a rest area south of our location and transporting the young man to a level 1 trauma center where, he recovered completely.
The first arriving units were BLS and first responders. It was challenging with people in shock, starting IV’s, back-boarding, bandaging, and just getting everyone loaded. Everyone worked great together, with no one trying to do it all.
By the way, while we were working on the patients involved in the south bound accident, eight more cars collided on the north bound side as they were watching the accident scene and navigating the heavy fog.
To say the least, God put me in the right place at the right time. A few minutes ahead or behind schedule, and I could have been involved in either of those accidents.
Being available to use my skills and work with some amazing lay people will never leave my memory and being.