ETNA, Ohio (WCMH) – First responders described the scene of the deadly crash on I-70 Tuesday as something they have never experienced before and something they hope to never experience again.
They said those hours were filled with tough decisions.
Several witnesses called 911 to alert them of the crash. One of the 911 calls came from a woman who was riding on the charter bus filled with more than 50 students and chaperones from Tusky Valley schools.
“We’re in a van pool, yes we are. It’s on fire, we need help and we have children still in the coach,” said the woman.
“Ok. Can you get the children out,” the operator asks.
“We’re trying but the back of the bus is on fire,” the woman said.
On the call you can hear the woman taking a head count and consoling the students.
The West Licking Fire District was the first on scene. Assistant Chief Joe Krouse said their dispatch team told them as much as they could before heading to the scene. He said this is a type of situation they train for but it is hard to truly know what you are walking into.
“We had a hazmat incident where a rescue and we had a working extrication at the same time,” Krouse said. “We had, you know, bystanders, you know, trying to get somebody out of the bus. And they were very vocal that there’s still people on that bus was able to assign companies immediately to start extinguishment and rescue and extrication. Our crews made every effort to get on that bus.”
While the firefighters were tending to the flames, the EMS crews started triage.
“Part of our job with the triage is basically figuring out who’s hurt, who can we, who needs to go, who needs prioritized, who can wait,” said Ginger Wortman, the EMS Coordinator.
She said their standard is to color code triage the patients, and most people were yellow. She said they worked on getting people transported to area hospitals. All of that got done in less than 45 minutes, according to Wortman.
West Licking Fire District leaders describe the scene as unlike anything they’ve seen before and something they hope to never see again.
“We take pride in our department on how much our crews train for situations that they hope that they never have to deal with in regards to something like this. This is like wholeheartedly every single one of the responding companies that came to that incident on I-70 yesterday (Tuesday), they performed to the best of our abilities and very well,” Krouse said.
Through all the flames and fear, they say there were some actions that were undeniable.
“Heroism and strength and teamwork,” Wortman said. “How those kids all helped and they stuck to those kids, stuck together that school district very much to be applauded.”
West Licking Fire District leaders said at one point there were more than 60 emergency apparatuses on the road and around 100 emergency personnel from multiple agencies.
They said they are proud of how they all rose to the occasion on what was the worst day of many people’s lives.