OPMC prepared for the worst after plane crashed into St. Johns

If needed, staff of 70 were waiting at emergency, operating rooms

By Don Coble Managing Editor
Posted 5/8/19

ORANGE PARK – Dr. Steven Goodfriend only had enough time to take one deep breath the moment he got the call Friday night that a civilian Boeing 737-800 had bounced off the runway and into the St. …

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OPMC prepared for the worst after plane crashed into St. Johns

If needed, staff of 70 were waiting at emergency, operating rooms

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Dr. Steven Goodfriend only had enough time to take one deep breath the moment he got the call Friday night that a civilian Boeing 737-800 had bounced off the runway and into the St. Johns River.

Then the Emergency Room Medical Director at Orange Park Medical Center joined in a frantic, yet well-organized, response to an unknown disaster.

Within minutes, a crew of 70 trauma and emergency room doctors, surgeons, nurses, practitioners and operational support staffers were ready to accept casualties.

“It’s what we do,” Goodfriend said. “We mobilized everyone, and everyone was ready. Everyone came in. Everyone wanted to help.”

Area hospitals were on alert for nearly an hour after the regularly-scheduled Miami Air International flight 293 from Guantanamo Bay NAS ran off the runway at 9:40 p.m. and into the river at Jacksonville NAS with 143 passengers and crew on board. Once casualties arrived, all were relieved the injuries seemed minor.

About an hour after the crash, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said 21 people were taken to area hospitals. OPMC got four of them, and its Park West ER in Orange Park got another three.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Goodfriend said. “We put our MCI [mass-casualty incident] plan into effect. We’ve trained for this. We were ready. For over an hour, we assumed the worse. But it was a big relief, just a lot of bumps and bruises. Some were in more pain than others, like a fender-bender. It was nice to be part of something that was bigger than you and have it turn out all right.”

It also helped Goodfriend critique his hospital’s ability to handle a real emergency outside a controlled environment.

“You know what’s supposed to happen during a drill,” he said. “This wasn’t a drill. It all happened in a matter of seconds. It was great to see how we reacted in a non-drill situation. We were ready.”

All 21 patients had been released from area hospitals by Saturday.

“There was a lot of anxiety, a lot of butterflies,” Goodfriend said. “But at the end, it all worked out.”

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