By Wayne Litke
Response to a July 13 highway accident reached an unprecedented level when two emergency-response helicopters and a fixed-wing air ambulance were summoned to Maple Creek. Their job was simple, but essential–airlift the two injured people to a larger center with better medical facilities.
The emergency response was initiated after a rollover on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Piapot at approximately 4 p.m. Maple Creek RCMP and firemen responded to the accident, as did Gull Lake and Maple Creek emergency responders. Firemen extracted two men from the Ford truck and EMTs administered medical care. The vehicle occupants both suffered serious trauma when the cab was crushed down in the rollover.
Cypress Health Region could not comment on the event since their communication officer did not have current information at press time.
Stars Air Ambulance was reportedly summoned after Gull Lake EMTs, the first medical responders on scene, assessed the injured men. They were transported to Southwest Integrated Healthcare Facility at Maple Creek for medical attention. It is unclear how a second emergency response helicopter was summoned, but it may have been due to smoky conditions at Regina that could have prevented STARS Air Ambulance from responding. Saskatchewan’s air ambulance was also dispatched out of Saskatoon.
First to arrive at Maple Creek was a Halo rescue helicopter out of Medicine Hat that was piloted by Gerald Udal. He landed in an open, grassy field immediately north of the hospital. Stars arrived shortly after and as the helicopter was touching down the provincial air ambulance banked overhead and landed at the Maple Creek airport.
An excavator was working just north of the hospital at the time and the operator filled in the excavation he had dug so ambulances could deliver the accident victims to the helicopters.
After a decision was made to send the two 20-year-old men (from Alberta) to Saskatchewan medical facilities, the Halo helicopter left for home base.
Instead of using an ambulance to transport one of the victims to the Stars helicopter, the individual was carried the short distance by emergency responders. He was transported to the provincial capital where he received attention at Regina General Hospital. The fixed-wing air ambulance took the other individual to Saskatoon where he was transported to Royal University Hospital. Both men were reported to have serious, but non-life threatening injuries.
As the aircraft disappeared from sight, one question remained. What circumstances led to the number of emergency aircraft that responded exceeding the number of injured people?