Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Accidents tax emergency crews

Five out of six area ambulances called to respond to injuries

Express Staff Writer

In a flurry of morning accidents, five ambulances and police from the Sheriff's Office and Hailey responded. Blaine County Lt. Ron Taylor reviews an accident on Highway 75 near the Peregrine Ranch north of Hailey with driver Rene Roihuela, 30, of Ketchum, who lost a bumper. Photo by David N. Seelig

For just over an hour Friday, emergency response personnel from Bellevue to Ketchum were called to the scenes of five separate accidents.

"When it happens around here, it really happens," said Wood River Fire and Rescue Chief Bart Lassman, who joined other police and fire personnel to respond to three car crashes and three work-related injuries in an hour. "We were all pretty busy that morning."

Between Ketchum and Bellevue there are six ambulances prepared to respond to emergencies at any given time. At 9:25 a.m. the first accident involved the Senior Connection bus as Rita Taylor, 56, of Hailey, the driver and the only person on board, was attempting to cross Highway 75 from Buttercup Road to Zinc Spur. The bus was struck by the driver of a Ford F250 pickup truck driven by Trever Joseph Herrud, 25, of Salt Lake City, who was traveling southbound. An ambulance responded to the accident from the WRFR station in Hailey, Lassman said. Taylor was transported to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center, where she was treated for her injuries and released. Herrud was uninjured.

Northbound on Highway 75 about 20 minutes later a Toyota pickup collided with a red 1992 Pontiac near the Peregrine Ranch, north of Hailey. The two-vehicle accident resulted in three people being transported to St. Luke's, said Blaine County Chief Deputy Sheriff Gene Ramsey.

Road crews were in the process of closing the highway. All traffic was routed through Northridge, between Buttercup Road and Hailey, said Lassman.

"That accident required two ambulances," he added. "As the first ambulance was arriving I requested mutual aid. "

That first ambulance on scene was the second to respond Friday morning from the WRFR station in Hailey. Mutual aid ambulances came from the WRFR station south of Bellevue and from the Greenhorn Gulch Fire Station south of Ketchum.

En route, the Bellevue ambulance was diverted at about 10 a.m. to respond to a call concerning a worker who fell some 20 feet off a scaffolding structure at the new cinema job on the north end of Main Street in Hailey. Emergency personnel were still busy with the accidents on Highway 75 at Buttercup and Peregrine Ranch.

Then, at 10: 25 a.m., just as Lassman and Hailey Fire Chief Mike Chapman were clearing the construction accident scene, Chapman and Lassman watched as a scaffolding crossbar fell and struck another worker in the hand. The ambulance from first accident at Buttercup Road was just leaving the hospital and responded.

During the highway and cinema site responses, Ketchum sent a second ambulance to respond to a call about a woman who had fallen off a ladder at an a residence on Warm Springs Road, said Ketchum Fire Chief Greg Schwab.

"It really tested emergency services here in the valley," Schwab said. "We train for this. Our drills are generally for one large incident. We put those skills to use on Friday."

Although the multiple accidents happened in succession and taxed the system, through mutual aid and cooperation, emergency service personnel were able to deal with the situation, Schwab said.

Hailey Police also responded to a noninjury collision at 9:48 a.m. at Coyote Bluff and Highway 75, north of Hailey. One vehicle was towed from the scene.

All accident victims have been treated and released from St. Luke's.

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