Doctor on those critically injured: “We are going to do our best for them”

University Medical Center Brackenridge Dr. Christopher Ziebell (Angie Beavin/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — University of Medical Center Brackenridge doctors worry that two people who survived a crash that killed two others in Downtown Austin early Thursday morning may not make it.

A driver is charged with two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle after the car plowed through a crowded street full of people waiting for a South by Southwest concert outside Mohawk. A woman and man died in the street, and EMS crews took 23 others to area hospitals.

UMCB tended to eight people involved in the wreck, seven of whom went to the hospital overnight and another who came from another hospital after their injuries became more serious than that hospital could handle.

“The most critical patients I have a great deal of concern for,” said Dr. Christopher Ziebell, the emergency department director at the University Medical Center-Brackenridge said. “We are going to do our best for them, but these are some of the worst injuries that we see and not everybody with these kinds of injuries is going to survive.”

“We had a beefed-up staff as the first patients arrived,” Ziebell said during a morning press conference. “We were able to be prepared and ready.”

Ziebell says doctors are focusing their efforts on two people who are in critical condition, both with head injuries.

“I know that one of them went to the OR [Operating Room] very quickly and was in the OR for about an hour,” said Ziebell.”The other one did not go to surgery right away and is actually in the Special Procedures Lab getting some intervention right now.”

There are three more people who are in serious condition and are in some higher level of intensive care. One person is in good condition, and hospital staff have released two people — including the driver of the car that rammed into the crowd of people.

“He had very minor injuries, and we were able to treat those and release him,” said Ziebell. “[It] wasn’t good for him or us to keep him in the environment any longer.”

Ziebell also praised Austin-Travis County EMS crews for their response efforts.

“I just can’t say enough just how absolutely prefect the EMS response was in this situation,” said Ziebell. “That was a wonderful benefit that they were only a couple of blocks away. They were able to scoop and run with most folks. The first ones in had our undivided attention pretty quickly.”

Emergency officials are fresh off of mass-casualty training, a routine they practiced just last week with a scenario involving a car going into a crowd. Ziebell says it helped them prepare for Thursday’s incident.

“It was a very well-organized effort thanks, in part, to how the EMS was organized up front,” said Ziebell, who explained EMS thoroughly notified hospital staff about the incident as soon as they could.

Ziebell said the heads-up also included an estimated number of patients that was accurate, and EMS crews were careful about spreading the patients out across area hospitals to keep from overwhelming a single one.

Officials explained why they used different hospitals early Thursday morning, saying that any time there is a “mass casualty incident” they reach out to area hospitals to see what the different emergency rooms can handle.

All critical patients headed to UMCB, since it is closest and is a certified Level 1 Trauma Center.

“Typically, we quickly run through the emergency department to release anyone who can be released,” said Ziebell, explaining the order of events that happens quickly in these types of emergency situations.

Anyone looking for information on the people involved can call the hospitals.

  • St. David’s Medical Center 512-476-7111
  • St. David’s South Austin Medical Center 512-447-2211
  • University Medical Center Brackenridge main number 512-324-7000.

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the crash on Red River overnight,” said Red Cross of Central Texas spokeswoman Bristel Bowen. “The Red Cross has immediately stepped into action to provide help and support to the people and families impacted by this event.”

Red Cross officials have set up a SXSW page for anyone needing to get in touch with a loved one who may have been affected by the crash or for anyone who may need to let people know they’re OK.

Also, trained Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteers are standing by to provide counseling to anyone with emotional stress and trauma.

“Anyone needing emotional support is encouraged to call our local chapter at 512-928-4271 or send us a private message on Facebook or Twitter; licensed mental health professionals are available to help,” said Bowen.

In-Depth: First responder work quickly

EMS officials said ambulances took all of the critical patients to the hospital in under 15 minutes of the incident happening. The rest of the 23 people hurt were sent to three area hospitals within 47 minutes — by 1:19 a.m. Thursday.

EMS crews handled the incident with:

  • three special response units
  • two motorcycle medics
  • seven ground ambulances
  • two commanders

Meanwhile, Austin Fire Department Chief of Staff Harry Evans said 24 firefighters and “two command elements” responded after getting the call at 12:32 a.m.

In-Depth: Timeline of events

Police say the suspect sped off, after being stopped on suspicion of DWI.

The driver almost hit a police officer with the car while trying to get away, according to police. The suspect then went the wrong way on Ninth Street, plowed through a barricade on Red River Street, and hit the people in the crowd.

The suspect then went through 10th and 11th streets before hitting a van. That’s when police say the driver jumped out of the car and began to run, but police managed to use a Taser and arrest the suspect.“Let’s respect the sanctity of the investigation,” said Acevedo, talking about posting any of the photos or videos from the incident to social media. “Please provide it to us. You can always post it later.”

Officials pronounced a man and woman on a moped dead at the scene, and EMS crews took 23 people to the hospital.

Mohawk canceled all its events Wednesday night, and officials evacuated Cheer Up Charlie’s.

Meanwhile, Red River Street is closed from Ninth to 11th streets.

Police have set up a specific number for people to call if they have pictures, video or information about this situation.

Police posted on Facebook, “If you witnessed, have video/photos of the incident @ Red River call (512) 974-5186. Do not tie this line up for any other reason.”

“Let’s respect the sanctity of the investigation,” said Police Chief Art Acevedo, talking about people posting any of the photos or videos from the incident to social media. “Please provide it to us. You can always post it later.”

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