Nellis Airmen put training to test, save six
By Lila Edwards, Nellis AFB Public Affairs
/ Published August 04, 2006
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
Two Nellis Airmen aided in the rescue of six victims of a vehicle accident at Lake Mead this summer.
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Diola and Senior Airman Ryan Hatfield, 58th Rescue Squadron pararescuemen, were the first responders to the accident, which occurred at Boulder Beach in the Lake Mead Recreation area here in Nevada.
According to Sergeant Diola and Airman Hatfield, the two Airmen had spent the day at the lake relaxing and were just leaving the recreation area when they encountered the accident.
"We were just leaving and drove up on a two -car crash," said Sergeant Diola. "We were the first on scene, and it looked awful. It was a T-bone wreck."
An older model sedan with four passengers from the Las Vegas area had been hit on the driver's side by a Chrysler PT Cruiser, carrying two older, out-of-state tourists.
Sergeant Diola and Airman Hatfield retrieved their trauma medical bag from their vehicle and rushed to the two vehicles. Airman Hatfield immediately began tending to a 6-year-old boy with a severe laceration on his forehead, while Sergeant Diola attempted to talk to the driver in the sedan. Their concerns were that most of them had possible life-threatening injuries.
It immediately became apparent to Sergeant Diola that all of the patients were non-English speaking, he said. A passerby had also stopped, and noting the difficulty in communications, offered to translate for the two Airmen.
The driver of the sedan, a man in his mid-50s, was combative with the medical care he was receiving, and because of the man's behavior the two Airmen were concerned about an internal head trauma. The third patient was a 76-year-old woman, unconscious and unresponsive and pinned in the back seat. During their examination, the Airmen determined she had a broken ankle and fractured ribs. However, it would require extracting tools to remove her from the vehicle. The fourth patient was a 10-year-old boy who had climbed outside of the car and was just shaken up and frightened by the accident.
Working in tandem, Sergeant Diola and Airman Hatfield continued triaging the patients in the first vehicle, while stabilizing the victims in the PT Cruiser and keeping all of the patients from receiving further injuries from the heat.
"Because of the extreme heat, the accident victims needed protection from heat exposure," said Sergeant Diola. "So I used what ice bags we had available to make the injured people as comfortable as possible."
According to Airman Hatfield, there was a 30-minute delay before park rangers, ambulance personnel, and fire units arrived to assist.
Following up on the two Airmen's triage procedures and life-saving efforts, the fire unit personnel used an axe and crow bar to extract the seriously injured 76-year-old victim, who was airlifted out by helicopter.
Sergeant Diola and Airman Hatfield stayed on scene and continued assisting park officials and ambulance personnel until all victims had been safely transported out of the area to local hospitals.
The two Airmen used the experience as an opportunity to assess their response to the accident, and listed several tools and medical supplies that they could employ, if they happened to find themselves in a similar situation.
"We could have used a small extracting carkit that had a crow bar or crash axe, more triage tags, and some extra pediatric IV supplies," noted Sergeant Diola in his after-action report. "And more ice packs for these extreme heat days would have helped."
Capt. Glen Frazer, director of operations for the 58th RS, lauded the two Airmen for their actions at the scene.
"These are two outstanding pararescue team members, and we are extremely proud of their accomplishments on and off duty," he said.