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Broward County Fire Rescue News Conference

Aired January 2, 2003 - 11:18   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're also showing you a picture there out of Broward County, Florida, where any moment now we're expecting to hear from assistant chief Todd LeDuc about the amazing rescue that the incoming Senate majority leader, Senator -- Senator Frist conducted yesterday on a roadway called Alligator Alley there in Florida.
What happened was that an SUV that you're looking at there blew a tire so badly that it blew all the rubber off the tire. It caused the vehicle to overturn. More than a half dozen people were injured severely. In fact, a 10-year-old was killed in that accident. But Senator Frist, who is the only practicing surgeon in the U.S. Senate right now, happened to be driving along that highway close to about 4:00 yesterday afternoon Eastern time, and he came upon the rescue operation and got out of his car and helped the rescue workers, the first responders there, treat some of the victims.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is standing by there covering the story. Susan, what we hear from the paramedics -- and we are going to hear more from them in just a moment, is that obviously, this former emergency room doctor knew exactly what to do.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed he did. As a matter of fact, one of the assistant chiefs just told me a few moments ago that it's not uncommon for doctors to stop by at the scene of an accident, but often time they don't have the expertise. Some of them are podiatrists, for example, and the rescue personnel would just as soon not accept their help, quite frankly, they said.

But obviously in this case, Senator Frist was clearly has the expertise in order to help. And as you know, Carol, he has helped in other situations. Capitol Hill shooting in 1998, where he attended to both the victims as well as the shooter. He helped Senator Strom Thurmond not long ago when he took ill in the chamber. So he was able to jump in immediately.

In fact, he was able to talk to 911 shortly after he stopped by and give them enough information so that they were able to determine that they needed even more rescue equipment than originally was thought. And one of the rescue paramedics told me that it really helped him to mentally prepare as he was choppering into the scene because he knew what he would be facing as the team landed. There were already ground rescue personnel on site as well, and they said that Senator Frist, Dr. Frist was a tremendous and invaluable asset to what was happening.

LIN: Yes, and you know, they call it the first hour in a rescue operation, they call it the magic hour, because that is when life and death is determined. And I know some of the people who are in the hospital right now are in very, very serious condition. But they may owe their life to Senator Frist.

CANDIOTTI: Indeed they may, and you're right. We do know that at least some of those people are critically injured. Some, we are told, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, were wearing their seat belts.

They're not sure about the others. They think of the six people, three or four were ejected from the vehicle, so they're still not clear about all of the details of what occurred. But, of course, that magic hour, the golden hour for rescue personnel to respond is so critical. And, of course, him being on hand so quickly trying to stabilize the patients until they arrived on scene with all the equipment they needed, was critical in this case.

LIN: Susan, we're getting ready to hear from these paramedics, but we're not going to be hearing from the senator himself. Let's listen in to what they have to say.


ASSISTANT CHIEF TODD LEDUC, BROWARD COUNTY FIRE RESCUE: ... have this occasion. The reason we are is that I've received a number of calls from many of you asking for some perspective from the folks who were on scene with regard to the good Samaritans, of which there were six. One of which, as we know now, turned out to be our new Senate majority leader.

With that being said, my name is Assistant Chief Todd LeDuc with Broward County Fire Rescue.

I want to, first of all, again, send -- unfortunately, it's all too often that we see, particularly on Alligator Alley, these type of tragedies, and that's what this was. We have a group of six folks that were ejected from a vehicle, and just really a bad scene, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.

With that being said, I want to introduce first of all our battalion chief, Chris Koski. I have a handout you should all have. Chief Koski was the incident commander on this scene, meaning that he was running the scene from fire rescue, managing the resources. The handout that I gave you follows from the left to right. We have Lieutenant Perry (ph) and also some members from the Broward Sheriff's Office, most notably Deputy Chief Bennett (ph). Deputy Bennett (ph) that was the pilot commanding one of the air rescue helicopters. And I thank them for joining us and work very closely with them as a team to facilitate the best we could in this situation. It's a real difficult call.

Last thing, and then I'm going to stop talking, is that we do have a Spanish translator here, that if anyone needs this in Spanish, we'll do our best. Brief remarks by Chief Koski, and then I am going to open up for question and answer. Basically, from our perspective, the folks that are here were ones that really interacted the most with the senator as well as the other good Samaritans. So, Chief Koski.

CHIEF CHRIS KOSKI, BROWARD COUNTY FIRE RESCUE: Good afternoon. I just want to again express our condolences to the family on this terrible tragedy on the first day of the new year. We want to express our thanks for all of the people that stopped and assisted us out on this call. This call is halfway across to the west coast. It takes us approximately 20 minutes to get there on a normal response. So the fact that we had seven good Samaritans that stopped and initiated care prior to us getting there was a real asset. They also gave us very good information as to the seriousness of the accident, and so that allowed us to get, you know, additional resources going.

QUESTION: Can you talk to us, chief, about what exactly those Samaritans did? I mean, obviously, Senator Frist is a doctor (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Anybody else do anything like that, and what did they do?

KOSKI: Yes. We got word from the scene that there was a doctor on the scene, and he told us the severity of the patients that we had, three adult patients and three pediatric patients all had been ejected from the vehicle. So we got a real good size-up from him to kind of give us a heads-up on what we could expect when we got there. They had started care on several of the patients, as much as they could without having any equipment, but, you know, certainly got the call going in the right direction from the start.

QUESTION: Chief Koski, when did you come to know that it was Senator Frist who was the physician?

KOSKI: I didn't find out until after the call was over. We knew we had a doctor on the scene. Captain Andrews and Lieutenant deMarco knew that he was a thoracic surgeon, but we really didn't determine that until after the call was over.


QUESTION: ... exactly what he did?

KOSKI: I'll turn that over to Captain Andrews and Lieutenant deMarco, they were actually working side by side with the senator.

QUESTION: The fact that all six passengers were ejected, does that mean that none of them were wearing their seat belts?

KOSKI: That we don't know. That is all under investigation by FHP. All we know that all six were out of the vehicle and some distance from the vehicle when we arrived on the scene.


KOSKI: No. All -- well, unless...

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) KOSKI: No. Unless somebody was pulled out of the vehicle by bystanders, they were all out of the vehicle when we got there, and a considerable distance from the van. So we're assuming they were all ejected.

QUESTION: Chief Koski, tell us why that is so important in terms of what the senator (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- why was that so important and how did that help you so much?

KOSKI: Which part?

QUESTION: The good Samaritans stopping to help (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but others as well. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

KOSKI: In this particular case, because of our travel time, anything that they can do to initiate care on severely injured patients is going to, you know, dramatically help the outcome of those patients. So a lot of times, people will call 911 and report a accident, but they're hesitant to stop. So the fact that these six people all stopped and were willing to get involved and render aid is a tremendous help to the patients.

QUESTION: Did Senator Frist call 911?

KOSKI: I believe he -- at some point he had conversations with 911 because we knew our dispatch was talking to a doctor. We assume it was him.

QUESTION: So you all know what was going on at the scene, and what you could expect when you got there?

KOSKI: Correct.

LEDUC: Chief Koski is going to be here to answer questions. I'd like to ask Captain Andrews and Lieutenant deMarco, they really, when you listen to them, were the ones that had the most interaction with Frist and we had a nurse, an EMT and paramedics as well. The other thing I want to point out too is recently, Broward Fire Rescue, through the leadership of the county commission, has identified that they are going to be building -- we are going to be putting a station on Alligator Alley, which should significantly assist in these type of events.

CAPTAIN JEFF ANDREWS, BROWARD COUNTY FIRE RESCUE: Good morning. My name is Jeff Andrews. I'm a captain with Broward County Fire Rescue.


ANDREWS: We had a patient that had a very difficult airway to manage. She was breathing on her own, but she had a large amount of fluid in her airway, and there was a lot of trauma about her face and inside the airway. And Senator Frist, along with a couple others -- I think there were three others there, at the time, like I said, we don't know who was who. We had our eyes focused on the patient. There was a gentleman to my right that I later found out who was the senator that was helping to open the airway, was helping to suction out the airway along with, I believe, another bystander that was a firefighter or an EMT. There was a nurse standing behind both of us that were -- she was assisting in setting up things, and getting equipment together for us out of the bags that we had behind us.

We eventually got this patient intubated and secured the airway down and with equipment and then were bagging the patient, and while we were doing other procedures, Senator Frist and the other firefighter/EMT were assisting in doing those maneuvers.

QUESTION: Lieutenant deMarco...


QUESTION: What kind of interaction did you have with Senator Frist?

DEMARCO: I was assisting Captain Andrews with the airway, and he was assisting us with suctioning. I was holding the patient's jaw, and he was assisting Captain Andrews with the suctioning and clearing out the airway so we could see to intubate the patient. He was very helpful, he was very conscious of what we were doing. He was -- you know, his medical training was obvious to us at that point. Captain Andrews asked him if he was medically trained, and that is when he identified himself.

QUESTION: I understand that he, along with others, were also helping to triage the patients, in other words, help prioritize the injuries. Could you explain to our viewers exactly what that means, both of you?

DEMARCO: Well, when you have a scene like this, and you first arrive, you have to determine who is most critically injured first, and who is going to receive the most care. At that point, due to the fact where the call was located, resources at the time were coming in sporadically. And once they got there, they were able to determine who was injured and who needed the assistance first. And that's what he helped to do prior to all of us arrival.

QUESTION: So Frist knew, when you guys there got there, treat this first? He already had them in order?



QUESTION: ... not only a doctor, but a nurse and another EMT there too? Among the good Samaritans, you had lots of medical help.

DEMARCO: Yes, we did. Yes, we did.

QUESTION: How much do you think that improved the chances of these patients? DEMARCO: It assisted us greatly. We had very limited resources due to where we were, and we needed all the help we could get, and they definitely assisted us greatly.

QUESTION: ... how do you feel? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

DEMARCO: We're very thankful. We thank them all afterwards. We went around -- when we were finished and cleaning up, we thanked them all individually for all of their assistance.

ANDREWS: Usually on a scene like this you get a lot of people that would like to stop and help, but they just don't know what to do. It's very unusual that we get a scene that is so chaotic, but where we have so many trained personnel that are able to assist us and really know what to do to help out in taking care of these critically injured patients.

QUESTION: As far as accidents go, Jeff, you have seen a lot of these kind of things. How horrible was this one as far as just being, you know, people outside the car? How would you characterize it?

ANDREWS: Well, any time you have an accident like this, where you have multiple victims that are so critically injured, it's just a horrendous sight. I'm just can't imagine what a family would be going through to have to deal with something like this on that level. We see the accidents down here more frequently where we have maybe one critically injured patient, maybe two -- and occasionally we get these bad ones where you get multiple patients that are just all critically injured. It's a horrendous sight out there. It is terrible feeling.

QUESTION: If these good Samaritans did not stop, if these people were on the roadside ejected, waiting for you to arrive, might this have been -- might there have been more deaths?

ANDREWS: I can't say there might have been more deaths, but the treatment that these patients got would have definitely taken a little longer because we would have had to even pull more resources out there or we would have had to clear one patient and then get to another. But because we had some more trained personnel who were out there and able to assist, we were able to get procedures done in a little more rapid fashion and not have to wait until one of the other medics cleared another patient to come over and assist on another critical patient.


ANDREWS: Oh, definitely. Definitely I think you could say that it saved lives and helped expedite the treatment transportation to get them off the ground into a facility.

DEMARCO: Definitely helped this family in their tragic loss.


QUESTION: ... bringing attention to a situation like this? I mean, Senator Frist wasn't the only one who was helping. Clearly, there were many others who lent a hand. What's important about bringing publicity to a situation like this?

DEMARCO: I think if anything, it just helps to have other people who will stop and help and get involved. You know, help us on other calls that we have and show that we really do appreciate bystanders helping and people helping out and helping the regular public.

ANDREWS: Like she said, it's great to be on a scene -- and especially on a scene where you have so many victims and you have that type of help that you need out there. Some people are willing to get out and, you know, most of these people that get out on scenes like that, when they're stopping in their car, they don't have any type of equipment. They have no gloves, no protection against anything they might come in contact with. So it's great to see that we do still have people like that that are willing to get out there and to help us out and, you know, do what they can to help the patients out.

QUESTION: Nobody had medical supplies?

ANDREWS: I really don't know if they had anything. When we get there and we get focused on the patients, I have no idea who is around us. I have, usually, gloves that I carry in my pocket, things like that, and I'm handing them out to people or tell them to get them out of the bag. But I have no idea if they had anything when they got there or not.

QUESTION: Do you know who the nurse was? I heard she was from Tennessee also.

ANDREWS: I know at one point when I asked -- I asked him if he had medical training, and he told me he was a thoracic surgeon. And then somewhere in the conversation, he said something -- the nurse behind me said something about she was from Tennessee area, and he said he was from that area. She mentioned the hospital she worked at, and he knew one of the physicians at the hospital and they, you know, little conversation was going on about do you know this guy? Yes, I worked with him.

QUESTION: So it was coincidental, right?


QUESTION: Now that you know he was involved, what did you think?

ANDREWS: Well, if we're on scene and somebody approaches us and says they're a physician, we're willing to accept help up to a certain limit. I mean, there are certain procedures that unless they're willing to take full responsibility medically of that patient and attend that patient from treatment all the way to the hospital until that is turned over to another physician, then they would have to do that.

If they're not willing to do that, then they are limited on procedures that they can help do. They can help do some of the things that were done yesterday, set up procedures, assist controlling airway procedures, but as far as invasive procedures go, we really -- they're not going to be doing any invasive procedures to that patient unless they are willing to accept full responsibility and liability for that, and transport -- and they have to accompany that patient to the hospital to be turned over to another physician.


ANDREWS: Yes, it was obvious by the actions that the people that were on my right, there were three of them to my right, and it was just obvious by their actions, they were familiar with the equipment, they were familiar with the procedure, and they were familiar with the anatomy that we were dealing with and what needed to be done. We didn't have to say anything to get it done like we do with citizens that aren't trained. They were doing things just like they were part of the team, all of them were. That's what was really helpful.

QUESTION: You didn't recognize him, I take it, in the beginning, and found out when? At that time?

ANDREWS: We heard rumors after all the patients were off the scene and then we found out after all the bystanders had left, we started hearing who he was.


DEMARCO: I think it's remarkable that he was willing to stop and assist.

ANDREWS: Him along with the other six that assisted, you know. Great that all of them did.

QUESTION: Have you talked to him since then?

ANDREWS: No, we haven't talked to any of them.

LIN: That's the latest from the Broward County rescue workers who were attending to victims at that tragic car accident on I-75, Alligator Alley yesterday, where they suddenly found themselves in the midst of the incoming Senate majority leader, who is a practicing surgeon, who was critical in helping to save some lives on that highway, along with six other good Samaritans.


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