Helping the Injured at Reno

It was the end of a seemingly routine day at the Reno Air Races. Each class flew and pilots advanced in the rankings just as they have in years past. The day’s show was to end around 4:30 and as was predetermined, I would meet my boyfriend at the car at the end of the day.

I was about to leave the Pit area for the day when I received a phone call from Mark, my boyfriend. He frantically asked if I was ok. I replied “well sure”, not realizing that the show had gone over that day and the Unlimited Class was racing as I made my way to the car. He told me a plane crashed into the crowd, to call the kids and let them know we were ok. I knew there was something terribly wrong, nothing like we had witnessed before.

I hurried back into Pit area and as I made my way to the Grandstands, the anguished voice of the announcer rang out. He asked that those that witnessed the crash to look away, for the crowd to leave the area, and requested for any available medical personnel to report to the scene.

The ominous tone of the unfolding event, still did not prepare me for the sights as I entered the Grandstand area through gate A. It looked like a bomb had gone off. The area that contained a cheering crowd in the box seat area just moments before was now leveled and scattered throughout the area in front of the Grandstands.

As I quickly gazed about over the devastation it was evident that there was loss of life and many, many injuries. I identified myself as a Registered Nurse and was handed a pair of gloves. I looked about and assisted where I could. The injured were already being triaged…separated into groups as to the severity of their injuries.

Red, for the most severe, had many injured lying on backboards, some with neck braces, and IV lines getting started, most all unconscious. The ambulances were already lined up within seconds of the crash and critically injured were being transported first.

Yellow was for the moderately injured. That would include severe lacerations, possible fractures, general complaints of pain, abdominal injuries, etc. The bulk of the injuries were a result of flying shrapnel as the plane disintegrated on impact, but also possible blunt trauma from the various flying debris. These folks were awake and able to respond, but closely monitored for any possible head injuries or worsening of condition.

The green area was for the lesser injured, small lacerations, fuel exposure, etc that could walk and many were taken to the local hospitals by personal vehicles. There was a Huey helicopter was brought out of the static display to aid in the transport to local hospitals.

The EMS responders were calm and quickly treated the injured just as they had practiced in their disaster drill just that morning. Disaster drills are standard practice with hospitals and EMS responders. It was apparent that the responders were well rehearsed and cared for the injured in impressive fashion.

As I looked out upon the devastation it was apparent that lives have been forever changed. Those that survived were traumatized way more than there apparent injuries. Some may never be able to attend an air event again. Many left crying and visibly shaken by the experience.

As time elapses this tragedy will spark many debates and conversations. Everyone there that day will take away some that will touch their lives. For me it is the basic idea of just how fragile life is…to be alive one second and gone the next. We never know how or when the end will come, and we need to let those we love how much we care everyday.

It remains to be seen just how future air shows will be impacted by this devastating event. There have already been groups formed to keep the Reno Air Races flying. I would expect to see some new regulations in place to try to prevent a repeat of this tragedy in Reno and air shows across the country.

You can contact the author at DreamChaser58@Aol.Com

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