RENO — Officials from the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA) and Washoe County District Board of Health delivered a presentation Thursday on the region’s emergency medical response to the plane crash at the Reno Air Races on Sept. 16, which killed 10 spectators, pilot Jimmy Leeward and injured about 50 others.
Officials hailed the quick mobilization and coordination between first responders, as all 54 injured at Reno-Stead Airport were transported to local hospitals within 62 minutes of the crash thanks to an organized multi-casualty incident plan that had already been in place.
A total of 19 ambulances responded to the disaster and all three Care Flight helicopters were deployed.
In addition, backup resources were available from Carson City, Incline Village and Lyon and Storey counties.
“It was probably the first time that all divisions of REMSA came into play,” said Kevin Romero, REMSA’s EMS director.
Among these was the Special Event Services division, which pre-plans for all events in the region.
Brian Taylor, director of special operations for REMSA, said he was extremely close to the crash site at the time of the incident.
Drills and exercises preparing for a worst-case scenario were held in the months prior to the air races, Taylor said, and first responders were ready to act immediately when the crash occurred.
“We said, ‘We’ve talked about this, now go to work,’” he said. “We took a very tragic (event) and did the best we could do with it.”
The concern going forward for health officials is ensuring the mental well being of first responders.
Internal reviews of the emergency preparedness and response plans will be conducted in the coming months, though officials are confident that they reacted responsibly and efficiently given the circumstances.
While acknowledging some hitches, “this was an exceptional operation,” said Dr. Randall Todd of the Washoe County District Health Department.
Board of Health vice chair and Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung praised the efforts of first responders, saying she had received calls from emergency medical professionals from all over the country wanting to learn from the local response.
The board meeting ended with a standing ovation for the job first responders did in tending to the injured and ultimately saving lives.