POINT PLEASANT — The response to Tuesday’s accident between a school bus and two semi trucks was a result of preparing for the worst-case scenario.
According to reports, a school bus was stopped to pick up children around 7:30 a.m.Tuesday with another semi-truck stopped behind it near Cornstalk Road — the location where the U.S. 35 goes from four lane to two for 14 miles. While this was happening, a second semi-truck was unable to stop and strucked the stopped semi-truck, pushing it into the rear of the school bus with children on it.
First responders, emergency management, hospitals and law enforcement all train and plan for scenarios like the one that played out on U.S. 35. The result was the best possible outcome.
“This was a terrible situation to respond to, but at the same time, the outcome was the best it could’ve been, too,” Jeremy Bryant, Point Pleasant fire chief, said.
A much more dire outcome dominated much of the discussion Tuesday as word began to spread about the accident on one of Mason County’s most dangerous and notorious roads.
Karen Jones, operations chief for Mason County EMS, said the response went “amazingly well.”
Jones said EMS had eight trucks on the scene with mutual aid from Putnam County as well as Cabell County, the latter of which was assisting on another accident with injuries on Jerry’s Run Road.
“We practice this, but today we had to perform and we performed the way we practiced. It was great,” Jones said. “Every person working EMS has to have MCI (Mass Casualty Incident) training before they can run on an ambulance. The scenarios we covered are what we did (Tuesday).”
This response includes “responding hot” to every scene because, as Jones pointed out, you never know for sure what’s happening at a scene until you get there. Jones said the initial call that came into Mason County 911 was that of an accident involving a school bus with no students and a car. This was not the case once responders arrived and re-assessed the scene.
Jones said there were 10 people transported from the scene, with one going to a Charleston-area hospital because, in terms of the traffic, it was easier to get them there with the others being dispersed between Pleasant Valley Hospital and Holzer Medical Center.
When Pleasant Valley Hospital received the call to expect trauma patients, the hospital went into what it calls “Code White mode.” This basically mobilizes everyone in every department trained in trauma care to be ready, even those not on duty.
“Multiple supervisors, department heads and staff report to see what they can do,” Tracy Call, marketing and community relations director, said.
This care includes each juvenile patient having multiple adults with them at all times in the hospital, including their own nurse, lab technician, someone from registration and doctors trained in emergency medicine, Call said. In addition, PVH offers pastoral care to the children as a form of comfort until their families arrive.
“Even though the outcome was not a Code White, our trauma staff was very impressed with the cooperation of multiple agencies involved,” Call said, adding the Mason City Police Department even drove one of its trauma nurses from the Bend Area to the hospital to get him through morning traffic and to the ER as soon as possible.
Also on Tuesday morning, Holzer Health System instituted a Code Yellow Alert at the Gallipolis facility, which means Holzer’s disaster plan may be implemented, upon alert of a vehicle accident within its service area, according to Karrie Swain Davison, Holzer’s communications coordinator.
“Holzer’s emergency response team prepares periodically by conducting emergency situation drills to ensure an appropriate, timely and effective medical response to address these situations,” Davison said. “All appropriate preparations are in place to manage this type of situation within our health entities. All Holzer services are on standby, if needed, including surgery, radiology, laboratory, respiratory therapy, etc.”
Davison also expressed the hospital’s gratitude to each of the first responders and school officials involved in Tuesday’s “efficient” emergency response, also recognizing their professionalism.
In fact, everyone interviewed for this article was complimentary of the emergency response and the teams behind them.
“Thank the good Lord we’re fortunate it is what it is,” Bryant said. “It could’ve been a lot worse.”