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Communications Failure Identified in Colorado Theater Shooting


AURORA, Colo. (AP) — Police and fire officials failed to tell each other when and where rescuers were needed following the Aurora theater shootings, according to reports obtained by the Denver Post that portray a chaotic and confused scene.

JEMS: At Least 12 Killed, Nearly 60 Wounded in Colorado Theater Shooting

Media Attacks EMS Response to Aurora
(JEMS Editor-in-Chief A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P)
Mass casualty events present many challenges unknown to the general public.

Read the Report: Century Theater Shooting

The incident reports and a fire department internal review obtained by the Denver Post (http://tinyurl.com/cp3kesp ) through an open-records request provided more information about when emergency medical responders arrived on scene and when they were notified there were gunshot victims behind Theater 9.

By that time, ambulances were stuck behind parked cars, police vehicles and 1,400 fleeing moviegoers.

"We didn't really hear the cry for people needed at the rear of the theater until (later)," said Aurora Deputy Fire Chief Danny Wilcox.

That notification from fire dispatch to emergency medical workers was 17 minutes after the shooting was reported at 12:38 a.m. on July 20. A fire commander had directed ambulances to a nearby staging area to await further instructions. Police officers had been telling their dispatchers they needed medical help at the rear of the theater for at least seven minutes.

Police said officers had to transport some of the most critically injured in the back of police cars. Many of the injured patients, who were spread over eight locations, drove themselves to the hospital after getting emergency medical treatment.

Initial reports indicated there was only one person shot and that there were possible bombs in the front and rear of the theater.

James Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.

The 27-page internal report does not thoroughly review the actions of responders and commanders or assign fault for a response that ended with nearly more patients transported to hospitals in police cars than in ambulances. It also does not address why so many ambulances sat unused at a nearby a staging area. Nor does it make recommendations for future disasters.

Fire officials said the report was intended to be a written timeline of events.

The city declined to comment, citing a court-issued gag order. Medical examiners, citing the gag order, have not released autopsy reports on the victims.

An outside review was put on hold after the Arapahoe County district attorney said it could hinder prosecution of Holmes.


Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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