Thursday, July 11, 2013

Asiana Crash Survivors Plead for Ambulance; They Weren't Evacuated for 90 Seconds

For the crash victims and witnesses of the crash who called 911, help was very, very slow to come. 20, 30 minutes, they say.

San Francisco Fire Department says its airport unit responded immediately. However, the spokeswoman also says the airport unit does not have ambulances, and "the fire department ambulances were held in a staging area near the runway as a precaution against potential risks, including an explosion or a terrorist device", but the private ambulances responded immediately.

The first victims arrived at San Francisco General Hospital, 11 miles from the airport, about one hour after the crash. And that's after the victims were "prioritized", according to the spokeswoman.

From Bloomberg News (7/11/2013):

Asiana Crash Survivors Plead for Ambulances for Hurt Passengers

By Alison Vekshin & Kathleen Chaykowski

The first ambulance reached San Francisco International Airport at 11:34 a.m., six minutes after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 slammed its tail into the seawall short of the runway and spun across the tarmac.

It was an eternity for those who fled the burning Boeing 777. They used their mobile phones to call emergency 911 operators, pleading for medical help for victims they described as near death or critically injured.

“There are no ambulances here,” one woman tells a dispatcher in recordings released by the California Highway Patrol. “We’ve been on the ground, I don’t know, 20 minutes, a half hour. There are people laying on the tarmac with critical injuries -- head injuries. We’re almost losing one here. We’re trying to keep her alive.”

Only two of the 307 people on board the wide-body jet didn’t survive the crash landing on the edge of San Francisco Bay about 11:28 a.m. local time, July 6. More than 200 were taken to hospitals. The 911 records offer a window into the scene as investigators seek to understand why so many survived.

“We just got in a plane crash and there a bunch of people who still need help and there’s not enough medics here,” says another female passenger. She tells the operator she’s standing near debris at the end of the runway where the plane hit.

“There is a woman out here on the street -- on the runway -- who is pretty much burned very severely on the head and we don’t know what to do,” she says. “She is severely burned. She will probably die soon if we don’t get help.”

Firefighters, Paramedics

Mindy Talmadge, a San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman, said its airport units rolled at 11:28 a.m. Twenty-three firefighters, including four trained as paramedics, began prioritizing victims based on the severity of their conditions, she said in an interview. The unit doesn’t have ambulances, she said.

The firefighters’ initial focus was to remove passengers from the plane and suppress the flames, she said. In plane crashes, the department’s ambulances are used to transport, not treat, patients, she said.

The fire department ambulances were held in a staging area near the runway as a precaution against potential risks, including an explosion or a terrorist device, she said.

“There may have been some people that waited a long time to be transported to the hospital, but those were the patients that were prioritized as being delayed transports and in need of less medical attention than the ones who were transported before,” Talmadge said.

A small number of private ambulances were close to the scene at the time of the crash and responded immediately, she said. At least 13 hospitals received passengers from the crash.

First Patients

At the city’s only trauma center, San Francisco General Hospital, 11 miles (18 kilometers) from the airport, the first wave of victims arrived at 12:30 p.m., or about an hour after the crash, according to Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman.

In California, all mobile phone calls to 911 are routed to highway patrol communications centers. Dispatchers heard not only from victims, but people who saw the crash and smoke.

“We just heard a giant explosion and I’m with a couple of other hikers and they saw that an airplane had crashed right there at SFO,” says a man who gives his location as near Pacifica, a coastal town about 6 miles west of the airport.

His call is transferred to police, whose dispatcher tells him they’re aware of the crash.

“We just don’t see any sirens or anything,” he says.

“We are responding,” the operator replies. “Trust me.”

USA Today reports (7/11/2013) that the Asiana crew didn't evacuate the passengers for 90 seconds after the plane crash-landed. No one knows why at this point:

Evacuation of the plane didn't begin immediately. Airlines must certify that they can evacuate fully loaded planes within 90 seconds. But in this case, a pilot told flight attendants not to begin the evacuation immediately when the plane came to rest.

But after about 90 seconds, a flight attendant near the second door reported seeing fire outside a window in the middle of the plane. He relayed that information to the cockpit and the evacuation began.

Hersman said evacuations don't always begin immediately. But she said once the crew was aware of the fire, evacuations began.

"We need to understand what they were thinking," Hersman said.


Anonymous said...

Astounding. The aircraft crew just kept the passengers sitting in the wrecked plane for at least a minute and a half. That's a very, very long time in those circumstances.
Also note there was no fire for most of that time, yet one woman ends up with severely burned head. That can only be due to having been forced to stay in the plane for that crucial 90 seconds.

Then the airport kept its ambulances parked far away 'because of possible terrorist bombs'.

I often get the feeling that more and more people in positions of authority are stark raving mad. It's like they are robots - completely unable to act like normal humans would.


Anonymous said...

Yes, there seems some room for improvement in the design of the airport emergency setup and even regulations. I'm sure they will conduct a full review and make improvements for the future, once all the dust settles.

But welcome to the real world. In real accidents, first responders cannot always get to the accident scene as quickly as they want or we hope for various reasons, even when 911 calls are handled properly. It is nothing like what you see on TV shows or movies or compute games, folks.

If you ever navigated the city of San Fransisco in a car or drove to the airport, you know how crazy the traffic is. In some parts of Detroit, you are very lucky if a police car or ambulance actually comes at all in the same day or two, even when 911 calls reported a shooting victim.

Anonymous said...

>welcome to the real world

Excuse me? The whole reason of existence of the airport unit of the fire department is to deal with "real accidents" that rarely happen in the real world. They train all their professional lives, most of them do not even get to use the training in "real accidents" before they retire. They are paid handsomely for their preparedness. Then when the real accident happens, they run over the survivor.

Yes I have navigated the city of San Francisco and I've driven to the airport. Crazy traffic? Hardly.

Stop making excuses.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when humans focus so much on positives and ignore negatives. Everything looks all peachy from the outside, but rots from the inside out.

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