Wednesday ‘unique’ day for emergency crews
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
Wood River Fire and Rescue ambulance driver
Ron Taylor called last Wednesday morning "unique," even for
emergency service crews who are used to responding to accidents on narrow
roads in the mountains.
Fresh snow and heavy traffic on the
two-lane sections of Highway 75 contributed to multiple accidents and
hindered emergency crews.
About 9 a.m., a head-on collision and a
rear-end collision occurred within minutes of each other, the first at
East Fork Road and the second at Cottonwood Creek Circle, bringing six
ambulances from Ketchum and Hailey into action, as well as several sheriff’s
deputies’ cars, to negotiate bumper-to-bumper congestion on the icy
asphalt. Both accidents happened on two-lane sections of the highway, and
six people were taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Later, at a third accident north of
Ketchum, one person died at scene and two others were seriously injured.
Ambulances trying to reach the new St. Luke’s
hospital north of the East Fork and Cottonwood accidents skirted the
stand-still lineup of cars by driving in the median where there was one
and driving against oncoming traffic where there wasn’t.
During an interview that afternoon, Taylor
described what it was like driving an ambulance under those conditions. He
said the conditions made him more cautious but only slowed his and his
partner’s response by a minute or less.
What’s more, he said, delays getting
patients to the hospital aren’t "necessarily bad," because the
more time emergency crews have, the more ability they have to prepare
patients for the hospital.
While an ambulance rushes to the emergency
room, emergency medical crews inside the vehicle do "a multitude of
things," such as stabilizing the patient, administering intravenous
fluids and asking questions about the patient’s medical history. With
more time, ambulance crews are able to "paint a full picture"
for the waiting emergency room team.
As for negotiating the most congested
two-lane sections of the highway that required ambulances to drive against
traffic for up to two miles, Taylor said that isn’t really a problem
because other motorists are "very aware--they do a great job of
getting out of the way."
"Unlike TV and the movies, we don’t
go fast and out of control," he said.
In bad conditions, like those that existed
last Wednesday, he’ll usually drive 30 to 40 miles per hour, or whatever
speed road and weather conditions allow.
State law allows five miles per hour over
the speed limit in cities and 10 miles per hour over on highways.
Taylor was asked how has his job had
changed since the emergency room in Hailey closed Nov. 19, leaving St.
Luke’s Wood River Medical Center with the county’s only emergency
"Not at all really," he said. It’s
added just "a little bit more transport time."
When asked how his job could be made
easier, Taylor’s first thoughts were about other vehicles. He
acknowledged ambulances occasionally do have problems with other motorists
who are reluctant to yield the roadway.
When using sirens, he said, "we’re
asking permission to pass. [Motorists] don’t necessarily have to give
But Taylor doesn’t believe having four
lanes of asphalt would automatically relieve ambulances from relying on
the altruism of other drivers.
"I don’t know if widening the
highway is the answer," he said, because "each accident poses
its own unique problems."
Another improvement will happen when the
county’s new paramedics begin working, increasing the level of care
patients get on the way to the hospital. The paramedics are currently
finishing their training in Las Vegas. No date has been set for them to
begin work here.