South Surrey firefighters dispatched to a two-vehicle collision Monday morning had to take turns stabilizing two women at the scene for more than three hours after paramedics en route were diverted – a wait one fire official said he hasn’t seen in his 28 years of duty.
The wait was “definitely excessive,” Surrey Fire Services Asst. Chief Chris Keon said.
“You’d usually wait 15 minutes. It’d be unheard of, pretty much, to wait over 15 minutes,” he told Peace Arch News
Keon said firefighters were called to the intersection of 160 Street and King George Boulevard by the BC Ambulance Service at 11:54 a.m., and arrived to find two women – an adult mother and daughter – with potential back injuries.
The firefighters put both women into C-spine – holding their head and neck still to prevent the possibility of further damage – and shared the task of maintaining the hold between three of them while waiting for paramedics.
Protocol mandates that the crew cannot leave the scene until paramedics arrive and take over, Keon said – something that, despite repeated updates by firefighters to those crews, didn’t happen until 3:25 p.m.
Paramedics were “re-routed to what was decided (was) more serious,” Keon said.
Keon acknowledged it was a busy time in the south end, noting three of four firefighter crews on duty were dispatched to medical calls at the same time as the collision, but the delay was “very frustrating” regardless.
“It wasn’t life or death… but there’s a reason we do those cervical protocols,” he said, adding that the victims might have tried to leave the vehicle with unknown injuries.
“If we weren’t there, could they have done further damage?”
In the meantime, the scene caught the attention of passersby, including one woman who said she could see over the course of more than two hours that nothing had changed.
“I’ve driven through the intersection of King George and 160th three times today… as long as about, I would guess over two hours, and there’s been the same vehicle sitting in the intersection with firefighters holding C-spine on the driver and possibly the passenger,” the woman told PAN.
“So they’ve been sitting there in the car after they T-boned someone who turned left in front of them for two hours waiting to get extricated from the vehicle – yikes.”
White Rock resident Ron Eves also contacted PAN with concerns, after passing the scene just before 2 p.m.
Eves said he found it unusual that firefighters were still working on victims in one vehicle when a second vehicle had obviously been cleared from the area and there was no ambulance in sight.
He described the apparent delay as “kind of alarming… It seems to me that response times are terrible right now.”
Keon said crews involved in a call that “doesn’t go the way they expect it to” can file a complaint to the ambulance service unit chief, however, it is up to the individual.
Officials with BC Emergency Health Services were unable to comment on the delay by PAN’s press deadline Tuesday morning.