Humboldt General Hospital, Others Respond to Mass Casualty Incident

A mass casualty incident three miles west of Winnemucca closed down Interstate 80 east and westbound and called in every possible medical, law enforcement and fire resource in the region.

Humboldt County Sheriff's Dispatch sent out the call shortly before 5 p.m. after motorists reported near-apocalyptic conditions on the interstate that officials have tentatively attributed to recently cleared fields and high local winds.

The wind and soil combination created white-out conditions resulting in a mass pileup that involved dozens of injured and one dead: 51-year-old Ravi Dyer of Chicago.

According to preliminary reports, the accident involved 27 total vehicles including big rigs, passenger vehicles and even a tow truck. Eighteen of those were heading westbound toward Reno while another nine were heading eastbound toward Elko.

According to Humboldt General Hospital, a total of 18 persons were transported to the Emergency Department. Three of those were listed in critical condition. In all, 26 accident victims were treated in the ER, and 21 were treated and released.

All available ambulances, including a unit from Lander County EMS, were on scene. The ambulance from the HGH substation in McDermitt arrived to cover the system in Winnemucca.

Because there were so many accident victims, the Winnemucca Police Department also brought in a transport vehicle; Coach America also showed up on scene to transport accident victims.

HGH EMS Rescue Acting Medical Commander Ken Whittaker said all patients were off-scene and in various stages of recovery by approximately 9 p.m. All hospital personnel, including the entire ER and OR teams, were called in to aid in the mass incident.

Additionally, all ambulance personnel were on site. Paramedics and EMTs aided the injured while other EMS staff and volunteers, with the help of Newmont's Mine Rescue Team and members of the Grass Valley Fire Department, cleaned and re-stocked ambulances to put them back into service.

According to the hospital, a fixed wing aircraft was in service throughout the night and three patients were flown to Reno for advanced medical care.

Whittaker praised what he termed the amazing response from area first responders including the highway patrol, the sheriff's office, the police department, city and rural fire, the department of wildlife, the department of transportation, Battle Mountain fire, and area mine rescue teams.

Humboldt County water trucks gratefully also showed up on scene to quell the dust, which Whittaker said immediately helped responders in their efforts to aid victims.