By DAN FOX
An Aug. 9 accident in Dyea saw 28 people transported to the Dahl Memorial Clinic for varying levels of injury, with three requiring a medevac for further treatment.
Just after 11 a.m., a call to the Skagway Emergency Dispatch reported that a passenger touring vehicle had gone off-road at the Alaska Excursions Dog Camp at Mile 10 Dyea road, according to a press release from the municipality.
Alaska Excursions Owner Robert Murphy said one of the company’s Unimog vehicles had pulled in for a routine stop at an overlook.
“When the driver got out of the vehicle, the brake was not applied and as he moved towards the back of the vehicle to get the guests out, it began rolling away,” Murphy said. “And he ran to try to stop to stop the vehicle, and didn’t get to it in time.”
The vehicle moved and one front wheel climbed up the side of a hill, causing the Unimog to tip over on its side.
Injuries ranged from cuts and bruises to broken bones and head injuries, Clinic Director Shelly O’Boyle said.
Murphy said he wanted to thank the first responders, clinic medical staff and the Alaska Excursions staff that assisted with the incident.
“Everybody was extremely helpful, very professional and as fast as you could ask for, given the fact that we are nine miles out of town,” Murphy said. Skagway Fire Chief Jeremy Simmons said the initial call for the accident was received at 11:19 a.m. Vehicles were en-route to the scene by 11:22 a.m., and were back in service in town by approximately 2 p.m. The response involved almost 20 of the department’s volunteer firefighters throughout the event.
“We haven’t had a mass casualty incident that large in, I don’t know how long,” Simmons said. “I think that the overall response went really well, I thought that on-scene it was very well managed, and they were able to quickly identify the people that needed more care.”
In a mass casualty situation, O’Boyle said the clinic follows a procedure that includes canceling scheduled appointments, pulling out necessary supplies to treat the oncoming injured, delegating roles for the situation and making a plan to combat the emergency.
“I’m really proud,” O’Boyle said on how her staff handled the mass casualty incident. “We just had a big turnover in staff here at the clinic, and so this is the first mass casualty with this staff, and it went extremely well.”
Six of the 28 patients were more seriously injured; O’Boyle said the remaining 22 patients were the “walking wounded,” meaning people injured but still able to move on their own. Part of the mass casualty activation plan is to call Guardian EMS and Airlift Northwest, according to O’Boyle. The two medevac companies quickly got planes and additional paramedics on the ground to help with the emergency.
“Which is really big in helping, because if we already know potentially we are going to airlift someone out, the sooner we can get them [medevac EMTs] doing patient care also is important for the patient,” O’Boyle said.
The clinic staff also got a helping hand from an unexpected quarter. The incident occurred just before lunchtime, and O’Boyle said the staff and first responders had resolved to tackle the emergency on empty stomachs.
“Not only did City Hall staff bring us food and beverages for the patients, the responders, the staff, so did Kathy O’Daniel and Bites on Broadway…it didn’t only help our staff, it went to the responders, it went to the patients,” O’Boyle said.