Garfield Memorial Hospital officials recall hectic scene from Panguitch bus crash

Southern Utah

PANGUITCH (ABC4 News) – Officials with Intermountain Healthcare gave an update on the survivors of the deadly bus crash in Panguitch that killed four Chinese tourists and injured more than a dozen others.

As of Monday afternoon, 12 people were reported to still be in various Intermountain hospitals – three in critical condition, one in serious, and eight in fair condition. Those hospitals include Dixie Regional Hospital, Utah Valley Hospital, and Sevier Valley Hospital. But officials said there may be other survivors at Kane County Hospital.

Alberto Vasquez, administrator for Garfield Memorial Hospital, recalled the hectic scene during a press conference Monday. His hospital that normally has 15 critical care beds, was the closest to the crash site and received 19 patients.

“I was actually in Salt Lake City and getting ready to return to Panguitch. I got the call right when I was entering my car,” said Vasquez.

Rachelle Rhodes, executive director of emergency department and trauma services for Intermountain Healthcare said luckily, six members of their executive team happened to be in town at the time of the crash.

“I recall standing and looking out the ambulance bay at the hustle and bustle of that area. There was not a raised voice. There was not a panic. There was not a victim type of an attitude. There was a warm, welcoming, organized chaos going on,” said Rhodes.

Additional resources from other facilities were called in to help, including three helipads and a critical care team assisting via a tele-presence machine.

“It would’ve been stressful without them. It was great. I almost burst out in tears when I found out this happened and they were here. It was great to have them,” said DeAnn Brown, nurse administrator for Garfield Memorial Hospital.

Out of the 19 patients examined at Garfield Memorial Hospital, 11 were transported to higher-level facilities, seven were released, and one was kept overnight before being released Saturday. Vasquez said interpretation services provided through their internal and local departments helped with overcoming the language barrier.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re from China or from Panguitch, we’re going to treat you the same way. That’s why it’s so nice living in a small community. We’re literally caring for our neighbors even though you may be from across the ocean,” he said.

Vasquez said his facility normally drills at least once a year, partly because of their proximity to Bryce National Park and the number of visitors they see each year. He and other hospital officials will meet Wednesday to review the incident and discuss areas that may need improvement.

“I believe this is the most serious incident we’ve ever had at Garfield Memorial. I’ve been here 15 years and it’s the most critical and largest amount,” he said.

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