SEATTLE-- Saturday marks one year since the crash of a Ride the Ducks tour boat and a bus loaded with college students on the Aurora Bridge that killed five and injured more than 60 others.
On Wednesday, first responders gathered to discuss what lessons they learned from the tragedy and recovery effort.
“I think we did really well here and I would put the credit on the MCI (Mass Casualty Incident) plan that we had in place.” said Paramedic Lt. Medical Service Officer John Fisk.
By most, if not all accounts, the response by the Seattle Fire Department and other local agencies is seen as a success in the midst of a tragedy.
The department said 90 firefighters helped rescue all 51 surviving patients in under 32 minutes.
“I was the unit commander on one of the first arriving truck companies,” said Lt. Harold Webb.
“When we approached the scene, we came from the north end of the bridge and I couldn’t tell how bad it was,” he said. “Then I realized, ‘Wow, this is a big event’.”
Fisk said the plan was created by looking at how other global events unfolded and pinpointing the best resources in the area for a similar event.
“We see a lot of this kind of stuff and I approach it from more of a technical aspect. How did we do and how can we do better to provide service to the community in an incident like this?” said Fisk.
Fisk said the one piece that they could have improved was the transportation aspect. He believed that the traffic coordinators did a great job but they could have streamlined their operation even further.
“Our belief was it was best to have our firefighters carry the patients from the treatment area to the transportation point,” Fisk continued. “We found in this case it was probably tiring for the firefighters. It may have been better to bring stretchers from the transportation point over to the treatment area.”
“There was some confusion because we had a red tarp next to a yellow tarp,” said incident chief commander Tamalyn Nigretto as she detailed the triage process.
Crews prioritized the most serious patients on red tarps to get care first, but the fact a different colored tarp was so close caused confusion for who went to the hospital first.
But overall, the emergency response was seen as heroic.
“We can all take pride in the actions taken by our members that day, and reflect on our commitment to teamwork, practice and preparation, and skill delivery,” wrote Assistant Chief Jay Hagen in the post incident report.