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Crash Victims Out of Danger, Hospitals Say

More than 100 sought treatment after 198-car pileup on the Long Beach Freeway.

November 05, 2002|Kenneth Reich | Times Staff Writer

Hospital and fire officials who responded to Sunday morning's 198-vehicle crashes on the Long Beach Freeway said Monday that all those deemed at the time of the incidents to have been critically hurt were out of danger, although some remained in serious condition.

More than 100 people sought treatment at eight hospitals. At one time, several trauma centers in the Long Beach area were at their limit, said Dr. Samuel Stratton, medical director of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

The two pileups in the southbound lanes of the freeway just north of the San Diego Freeway interchange were caused by vehicles going too fast in heavy fog. Stratton said they turned out to be a textbook exercise for law enforcement and emergency services.

Responding agencies included the California Highway Patrol and Long Beach police and the Long Beach Fire Department, which sent 42 firefighters and 10 paramedics.

The accident occurred when trauma centers were still treating victims of gunshots, ordinary traffic accidents and falls, which are routine on Saturday nights. The arrival of a total of seven critically injured people at three of the trauma centers -- St. Francis, St. Mary's and Long Beach Memorial -- brought those facilities to their maximum patient load.

Dr. Ron Forgey of Long Beach Memorial Hospital said the most critically injured person, a 77-year-old, had bleeding around her heart and numerous fractures and bruises, but was stabilized within hours.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and hospital executives held a news conference outside Long Beach Memorial Hospital on Monday, urging public support for a trauma center bond issue on today's ballot.

Officials said that, while massive accidents have occurred in the Central Valley, which is often fogbound, this was by far the largest number of vehicles ever involved in a pileup in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Long Beach Fire Chief Terry Harbour said he could scarcely believe that many drivers had been going 60 mph to 70 mph when visibility was only 100 feet.

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