SRMC official describes ER scene in wake of Tuesday’s bus crash in Prince George County; both victims ID’ed.

PETERSBURG — Shift changes at hospitals normally are run-of-the-mill. Staff members walk in to start their shifts, and others walk out at the ends of theirs.

Tuesday morning, the shift change at Southside Regional Medical Center was anything but run-of-the-mill. About 10 minutes before the traditional shift start-stop time, the SRMC trauma center was advised they would be receiving victims from a commercial bus crash that occurred about 90 minutes earlier.

Shift-change quickly switched to “all hands on deck,” and Tracey Jeffers said none of those hands were excused from duty.

“We had a staff of eight in the ER, and about 20 different people from throughout the hospital came in to help,” said Jeffers, the hospital’s trauma program manager. She said it was a combination of medical personnel, administration and other employees who wanted to help out —including incoming and outgoing shifts.

The ER charge nurse advised the hospital it was in “mass casualty” mode, meaning several patients would be arriving at once. So the staff assembled a triage to receive the victims and assign them to designated areas based on the severity of their injuries. Jeffers said the hospital received a mix of minor to major injuries. The ones who were less severely injured were able to communicate with the doctors and nurses, while others more severely hurt were not.

Jeffers said the first wave started coming in minutes after they got the initial call. By about 9:30 or 10 a.m., she estimated, the rush had dropped to a trickle, and everyone was able to resume their everyday routines.

To the average visitor at the hospital, Jeffers said the hospital received a mix of minor to major injuries. The ones who were less severely injured were able to communicate with the doctors and nurses, while others more severely hurt were not.

Jeffers said the first wave started coming in minutes after they got the initial call. By about 9:30 or 10 a.m., she estimated, the rush had dropped to a trickle, and everyone was able to resume their everyday routines.

To the average visitor at the hospital, Jeffers said, everything appeared business as usual. Folks likely were unaware of the churn the department had just encountered. In addition to the different treatments, she added, the hospital’s hazardous-materials team had to step in and thoroughly clean each of the treatment rooms before other patients could be seen.

“It was just amazing,” Jeffers said of the staff’s response to the injured. “Everyone just pulled together at that time of the morning. We got large support from administration.”

A total of nine victims — six men and three women — were brought to SRMC. Four were hospitalized for treatment or observation, two were transferred to other hospitals for more detailed care, and two were treated and released. The ninth victim, a woman, died before arrival.

State Police have charged the bus driver, Yu Man Chow, 40, of Staten Island, N.Y., with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the crash. The other fatality occurred at the scene. He has been identified as Su Feng Xu, 37, a Chinese national whose address is unknown.

Chow is being held at the Riverside Regional Jail in Prince George County.

The bus, with 56 passengers and the driver, was en route from Orlando to New York City when the accident occurred around 5:20 a.m. amid heavy fog and darkness. Authorities said the bus ran off the left side of the ramp into a marshy area and overturned.

State Police said Chow replaced the original driver when the bus stopped in Rocky Mount, N.C., about 95 miles south of the crash site. Bus speed is believed to be a contributing factor.

Jeffers said SRMC has not yet done an official post-event assessment of how the mass-casualty situation was handled.

“It’s going to be a while before we can really self-evaluate,” she said.

Bill Atkinson may be reached at 804-722-5167 or batkinson@progress-index.com. On Twitter: @BAtkinsonpi