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Church Van Rolls Over on NYS Thruway with Multiple Entrapments, MCI Declared

This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

COXSACKIE, NY - Numerous injuries were reported following an accident that occurred in August involving a large passenger van that rolled over on the New York State Thruway and brought EMS agencies from several counties to transport the injured.

Emergency crews were called to the New York State Thruway in the area of mile marker 120.7 southbound on Wednesday, August 24th, for a report of a bus rollover around 9:30 P.M., with multiple people trapped inside. On the initial dispatch were Coxsackie Fire, Coxsackie Ambulance, Greene County Paramedics and New York State Police. With the reports of numerous people trapped in the bus, New Baltimore Fire was requested mutual aid to assist with extrication and EMS.

The vehicle was later determined to be a 14-passenger van, owned by the Church of God of Prophecy, which was traveling back from a trip, according to a statement made by New York State Police.

“State Police have determined a church group from the Church of God of Prophecy, out of South Ozone Park, NY, were traveling back to New York City from visiting Niagara Falls when the van they were traveling in crashed and overturned,” police said.

As arriving crews evaluated the scene and the amount and severity of patients, an MCI was immediately declared. An MCI, or Mass Casualty Incident, can be declared when the amount and severity of patients is more than what the immediate area can handle at one time, bringing in additional resources from across the region to assist.

Assistant Chief Dominic Yannazzone of Coxsackie Fire was the first person to arrive on scene and provided dispatch with the updated information on what he had on scene. He says the extrication didn’t involve cutting the vehicle, but required more of stabilizing the vehicle and assisting with removing several passengers from their positions inside since the van was on its side and not everyone could get out on their own due to their injuries.

“One of the rescue workers and two troopers went in and we were just pulling people out, backboarding them and getting them to a safe location,” Yannazzone said.

As patients were removed they were being evaluated and treated by the numerous EMS personnel on the scene before being transported by ambulance to various hospitals in the area. He says they requested three helicopters to land, but later turned down that request as the closest helicopter was approximately 30-40 minutes away.

State Police say the driver of the van struck the guardrail and caused the van to roll over.

“He attempted to avoid an uninvolved vehicle that changed lanes and he overcorrected, causing the van to lose control and overturn numerous times,” police said.

A coordinated team effort on all parts helped all patients get removed from the vehicle and enroute to local hospitals in under 40 minutes of dispatch time, with off-duty personnel hearing the call and coming in to help fill different roles.

Several off-duty EMTs responded to their stations to staff additional ambulances to either bring them to the scene or assist standing by to help cover calls in other areas.

There was also an off-duty Greene County Paramedic and an off-duty Greene County 911 dispatcher who came in to help their colleagues work this stressful incident, according to Coxsackie FD Assistant Chief Stephen Salluce, Jr., also a Greene County dispatcher, who helped run command on the radios in the back of New Baltimore Fire’s heavy rescue truck.

Ambulances and paramedics from all over the area were dispatched and either sent to the scene or relocated to help cover the resources being sent to the scene.

On the scene were two ambulances from Coxsackie EMS, two ambulances from Ravena Rescue, two ambulances from Cairo EMS, two ambulances from Greenville Rescue, one ambulance from Durham EMS, one ambulance from Diaz EMS, two ambulances from Delmar-Bethlehem EMS, two ambulances from Albany County Sheriff’s EMS and one ambulance from Greenport Rescue, according to a post from Greene County Paramedics.

Also assisting on scene and on standby were numerous paramedics from Albany and Greene Counties, an additional ambulance from Durham, Chatham EMS, several additional ambulances from Delmar-Bethlehem EMS and Valatie Rescue.

Police said all passengers were transported to local hospitals, with three taken to Albany Medical Center with serious injuries, and the rest taken to other hospitals with minor injuries. The driver was not injured.

“Thank you to the nurses, doctors and techs at various regional hospitals for taking on a sudden patient load of varying degrees,” Chief of Operations Steven Near of Greene County Paramedics said in a statement.

All southbound lanes were closed at Exit 21B while crews were operating at the scene and during accident reconstruction. All lanes reopened to traffic around 3:45 A.M., police said.

Police say no tickets were issued and no criminal charges are pending.

“Although this scene required a large number of resources, it is a testament to our ability to work as a cohesive unit and accomplish our goals of providing patient care in less than ideal settings,” Near said. “The EMS/Fire/Police community is a small one. Although we all operate in different settings, we all come together and work seamlessly together when there is a time of need. I sincerely appreciate the hard work and commitment of all involved.”

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THOMAS MARRA Correspondent

No information from the author.