MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. -- Monterey County emergency responder Tino Arellano hadn't seen anything like Tuesday's fatal bus crash near Soledad since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
Arellano, who worked as a Denver paramedic at the scene of the deadly Colorado high school shooting, responded to Tuesday's accident in the county Emergency Medical Services agency's new California Disaster Medical Support Unit.
He said the local emergency response, which involved mutual aid from as far away as Sacramento and Santa Maria, was similar to that after the Columbine shootings.
When Arellano and his team arrived on scene about a half-hour after being dispatched from Salinas, he said he saw nearly a dozen people who had already been extricated from the mangled bus, which had its front end ripped open from the accident.
Victims on ground
The victims were stretched out on the ground and being treated for critical head, chest and abdominal injuries, as well as less serious cuts, scrapes and bruises, he said.
People were still being pulled out of the wreckage, he said, and nearby he saw a victim who had already died on the ground, covered with a blanket.
Arellano said the new medical support unit, which was on its maiden foray to the Soledad accident since its arrival last year, was able to provide emergency medical workers with everything from backboards and cervical collars to bandages and other supplies.
Back in Salinas, Natividad Medical Center and Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital staff members began preparing for a massive influx of crash victims. Implementing a Code Triage emergency plan, hospital workers began preparing medications, checking for room availability and "staffing-up," in hospital parlance.
At Natividad, specialty physicians were brought in to deal with the more serious injuries.