An intoxicated driver fleeing police plowed his car into a crowd at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, killing two people, authorities said early Thursday.
Dr. Christopher Ziebell, medical director of UMC Brackenridge’s emergency department, held a news conference Thursday morning to discuss the eight most seriously injured patients, who were brought to the hospital. See video clips and stories from KVUE-TV, KXAN-TV, CNN, Los Angeles Times, San Antonio Express-News, WFAA-TV in Dallas and more.
At least 23 others were hospitalized, some with multiple internal injuries. Most of the eight victims at UMCB were in their 20s, said Ziebell.
“A few of the cases are quite severe,” Ziebell said during the news conference, adding that he has concerns about the two most critical patients.
He further said that it was fortunate the incident occurred so close to the hospital, and he applauded the Travis County paramedics, who had just undergone training for a similar scenario, for their response.
We had a beefed-up staff as the first patients arrived,” Ziebell said. “We were able to be prepared and ready.”
Ziebell says doctors are focusing their efforts on two people who are in critical condition, both with head injuries.
“I know that one of them went to the OR (Operating Room) very quickly and was in the OR for about an hour,” said Ziebell. ”The other one did not go to surgery right away and is actually in the Special Procedures Lab getting some intervention right now.”
There are three more people who are in serious condition and are in some higher level of intensive care. One person is in good condition, and hospital staff has released two people — including the driver of the car that rammed into the crowd of people.
“He had very minor injuries, and we were able to treat those and release him,” said Ziebell. “(It) wasn’t good for him or us to keep him in the environment any longer.”
Ziebell also praised Austin-Travis County EMS crews for their response efforts.
“I just can’t say enough just how absolutely prefect the EMS response was in this situation,” said Ziebell. “That was a wonderful benefit that they were only a couple of blocks away. They were able to scoop and run with most folks. The first ones in had our undivided attention pretty quickly.”
Emergency officials are fresh off of mass-casualty training, a routine they practiced just last week with a scenario involving a car going into a crowd. Ziebell says it helped them prepare for Thursday’s incident.
“It was a very well-organized effort thanks, in part, to how the EMS was organized up front,” said Ziebell, who explained EMS thoroughly notified hospital staff about the incident as soon as they could.
Ziebell said the heads-up also included an estimated number of patients that was accurate, and EMS crews were careful about spreading the patients out across area hospitals to keep from overwhelming a single one.
Officials explained why they used different hospitals early Thursday morning, saying that any time there is a “mass casualty incident” they reach out to area hospitals to see what the different emergency rooms can handle.
All critical patients headed to UMCB, since it is closest and is a certified Level 1 Trauma Center.
“Typically, we quickly run through the emergency department to release anyone who can be released,” said Ziebell, explaining the order of events that happens quickly in these types of emergency situations.