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Paramedic Gives Account Of Plane Crash Rescue

Published On: Dec 02 2013 09:08:56 PM AKST   Updated On: Dec 03 2013 09:31:57 AM AKST

Clifton Dalton has been a paramedic for more than 20 years.

Dalton said he has taken part in hundreds of medical evacuations in the Bethel region, but what he saw in the wake of a fatal crash near Mountain Village last week was unique.

"We were 450 miles away from a trauma center, there weren't any roads to get there," said Dalton, who was part of the LifeMed Alaska crew that responded.

That meant help could only arrive by airplane or from health aides arriving from a nearby community. The LifeMed crew was able to reach survivors within half an hour of the crash.

Dalton said it was cold and dark when they arrived in St. Mary's and that the crew had to load medical gear into the back of pickup truck and drive a couple miles to the site of the crash.

The nearest access point to the plane was a local  landfill.

Dalton said about 50 people set out from the nearby villages of Mountain Village and St. Mary's on foot to the crash site, which entailed a half-mile hike.

LifeMed Alaska crew was able to provide advanced healthcare on-site, but he said the residents are really the ones who helped save lives. 

"The people of St. Mary's and Mountain Village, they came together and found that airplane," he said. "They were the first responders who were taking care of those people." 

Dalton said it took three trips by LifeMed planes to get the six survivors to Anchorage hospitals for treatment.