Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
A half-hour of hell, heroes
Short of having a small plane go down in the middle of Winnipeg, it would be almost unheard to face a situation where 12 people are killed, dying and/or seriously injured in the span of just a few minutes.Yet while most of the city slept, this nightmarish scenario was unfolding early Saturday morning when two horrific crimes occurred at almost the exact same time - a speeding stolen vehicle filled with youths slams into a cab (click HERE
to read), and six people are mowed down by gunfire inside an inner-city home (click HERE
to read).Having now listened to the audio transmissions between Winnipeg police, fire and paramedics - and their respective dispatchers - I think the public ought to know how poised and professional everyone acted.Not to mention the staff at several city hospitals which were forced to accomodate a sudden influx of patients.Let me take you through the half-hour of hell. (The following is a summary - in chronological order - of of approximately 30 minutes of an extremely chaotic situation)3:30 a.m.
- The first 911 call comes in, reporting a motor vehicle accident at Portage and Maryland. Initial information suggests one victim, possibly hit by a vehicle, and likely with no pulse. Police, fire and ambulance are dispatched.
- Police arrive on scene within seconds and immediately discover a gruesome scene. It's now confirmed there's been a rollover, with multiple victims.- The first ambulance arrives, calling for additional help as at least two patients are critical. Another ambulance is dispatched, along with a unit for extrication.- Dispatcher confirms the Health Sciences Centre is able to take two critical patients at the same time.- Paramedic supervisor says two more victims have been found in the wreckage. At least two more ambulances are dispatched.- Call for another ambulance. Inquiries are made about sending less critical patients to the St. Boniface Hospital. The Children's Hospital is also contacted, as at least some of the victims are youths.- Two more patients - one unstable, another stable - are discovered.(Other 911 calls continue to flood in at this time, including a suspected drunk driver who's slammed his car into a hydro tower, then fled into the nearby woods, leaving a trail of blood behind)- The first crash victim is transported, believed to be the taxi driver who will be pronounced dead at hospital after a speeding stolen SUV ran a red light, slammed into his vehicle and sent both cars rolling.Approx. 3:50 a.m.
- With the city's fleet of ambulances nearly drained, about the worst thing that can happen does - a 911 call comes in, reporting a shooting on Alexander Avenue. Initial reports suggest one victim. A fire and a paramedic unit are dispatched but told to use caution until police arrive on scene.- Police are quickly on scene on Alexander - and reporting "multiple gunshot victims". Another ambulance is sent. The dispatcher who's been handling both incidents remains calm, cool and collected.- Two youths are transported to Children's hospital from the car crash - one stable, one unstable.- Two more youths are taken to hospital from the crash. Both are stable. Dispatcher says both will have to be taken to a more outlying hospital such as the Grace because resources are being stretched thin.- Paramedics on Alexander report one shooting victim with no pulse, not breathing. A second victim has been shot in the face and also has no pulse. Another ambulance is dispatched, although the dispatcher admits they are facing a numbers crunch.- The dispatcher reports the Health Sciences Centre can accept the two shooting victims, despite just having taken victims from the car crash.- Paramedics say a third shooting victim - with a wound to the neck - has been located with no pulse. A fourth ambulance is sent.(About the same time, a medical call comes in for a woman suffering seizures in the North End. Somehow, someway, an ambulance is available to be dispatched immediately)- Reports of three more shooting victims - although none with critical injuries, apparently. Those on scene say they will need at least five, if not six, units to be sent in total. The dispatcher says he doesn't believe enough units are available but they will send what they can.- A fifth ambulance is freed up from a previous medical call and dispatched to the Alexander shooting. A sixth ambulance is sent to the scene moments later.(Just seconds later, another ambulance is found to send to a home in the same neighbourhood for a child having breathing problems.- Dispatcher reports the Health Sciences Centre will be able to accept the third shooting victim with no pulse.
- The first of the mortallty-wounded shootings victims is rushed to hospital, where they will be prounounced dead.- The second victim is soon transported, followed by the third - and the same tragic results await.- Another shooting victim who is in stable condition is taken to the HSC. The others will follow shortly.
Police will stay behind at both scenes to begin lengthy investigations of both incidents, doctors and nurses scramble into action to save as many lives as possible, and firefighters and paramedics quickly return to the streets, waiting for the next call.All in a day's work? I don't think so.These are extraordinary circumstances, with extraordinary efforts from my perspective.And while the above summary doesn't capture every detail - or the raw emotion and tension of a life-and-death situation like this - I find it truly remarkable and certainly admirable how these professionals acted in the face of tragedy.In a society where we are so quick to complain, I think we ought to take some time to commend those who work on the front-lines for a job well done.Sadly, four people died on this night and several more are fighting for their lives.But I can't help but wonder how high the body count would be without the top notch response from the everyday heroes - police officers, paramedics, firefighters and medical staff - whose names and faces may be a mystery but whose efforts should never be overlooked.www.mikeoncrime.com