The bus, on its way to Washington, D.C. found itself in a slingshot effect during the collision. The immediate stop flung the nearly filled bus forward and then back again: causing the passengers to be tossed about in their seats, many thrown into the narrow aisle. The scene inside was chaotic as weeping and grousing passengers attempted to grasp what had just taken place.
Rescue personnel work meticulously at extricating the bus driver who remains pin against his steering wheel and seat: emergency medical personnel begin triaging the bewildered travelers who are begging for the rescue team to please help them first. Through the panic-stricken pack the emergency medical crew delicately assured everyone that they would receive medical care before being removed from the bus.
The bus driver safely boarded and removed was carried to the patiently waiting medivac which immediately ascended for the quick flight to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center which has already received important information regarding mechanisms of injuries and the ever-important vital signs via telemetry between rescue personnel and specially trained hospital doctors: Setting in to motion a dedicated team of doctors, nurses and support personnel who would be awaiting the helicopter the moment it touches down.
Emergency windows are pulled from the side of the bus; so begins the cautious removal of the tourists…some on backboards, others are ambulating, still others being carried to the line of waiting ambulances. Local hospitals, who have heard of the accident on their police scanner, have been contacted and are, told how many patients as well as what level of care is required. This plan of action kept any one hospital from being over-run with priority 1 (critical) patients while another would be inundated with priority 3:non-life threatening injuries.
West bound U.S. Route 40 has been closed for almost three hours before clean-up of the wreckage begins booster reels discharge steady streams of water pushing antifreeze and washer fluid to the shoulder. Small mounds of shattered glass are swept into piles before shoveled into buckets. The roll-back is busy loading the mangled shell of the “sportster” as the heavy duty tow truck departs; the tourist coach moaning in agony as it rolls over the first of two road-dips.
It took two vehicles only seconds to set into motion a chain of events that would injure many, shut down roads, and taxes the fire and emergency medical personnel. It took only minutes for officials to establish a net-work of health-care professionals and centers that were ready to render immediate care.
Neal McLaughlin 1976/2011 Staff Writer The fetch Foundation
*Note: This was one of my first emergency calls after joining our volunteer fire department in late 1976.