Broward County

‘We trained for this,’ say doctors who treated shooting victims

Broward Health trauma surgeons provide update on shooting victims

Trauma surgeons at Broward Health Medical Central brief the media on the status of shooting victims from Fort Lauderdale Airport on Jan. 6, 2017.
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Trauma surgeons at Broward Health Medical Central brief the media on the status of shooting victims from Fort Lauderdale Airport on Jan. 6, 2017.

It was a somber scene at Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Health Medical Center following the mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday afternoon, as dozens of reporters and camera crews crowded the entryways to the trauma center.

Victims of the shooting were brought to the hospital soon after the attack occurred at the Terminal 2 baggage claim, but an emergency room surgeon said no one brought to the hospital from the airport had died.

“It’s like a big tragedy,” said Raynard James, 19, of Hollywood, who was at the hospital with an unrelated foot injury. “I heard some screaming, some crying for other family members. They were trying to make sure their family members were all right.”

James said he was reading about the shootings on Facebook when victims began arriving.

“It was orderly,” James said of the scene. “There was blood everywhere. … I know how it is, I’ve been shot before. People have blood all over their body, pain. You just have that pain of the bullet being inside your body.

“I saw a lot of family members crying, coming into the waiting room. … It’s crazy, the world coming down to this. It’s crazy.”

I saw a lot of family members crying, coming into the waiting room. … It’s crazy, the world coming down to this. It’s crazy.

Raynard James, hospital patient

Though several ambulances came in and out of the hospital in the hours after the shooting, authorities would not divulge specific information about those who were being transported.

None of the victims’ names — those who died or those injured and taken to the hospital — had been released as of Friday evening.

Dr. Ralph Guarneri, the trauma surgeon on duty, said five gunshot victims came into the trauma center and two were undergoing surgery. All five, Guarneri said, were in stable condition.

Several other people came to the hospital with less serious injuries received at the airport.

“This was an extensive team effort. … The entire system came together,” Guarneri said at a makeshift press conference in front of the emergency room entrance.

“No one who arrived at the hospital has expired. We’re doing the best we can do right now. … If you took a video of it, it would have looked like chaos, but it was controlled. This whole system worked very well today. I’m very proud of everyone who was there; we trained for this. As a Level 1 trauma center, Broward General shined very well.”

No one who arrived at the hospital has expired. We’re doing the best we can do right now.

Dr. Ralph Guarneri, trauma surgeon

Ronnie Coutu, who flew to Fort Lauderdale from Raleigh, North Carolina, became an indirect victim of the shooter when he was trapped on a plane at the airport for seven hours. After his connecting flight from Baltimore, water and food were in limited supply on his Southwest plane.

“Everyone was trying the best they could,” Coutu said. “We were up and moving in the cabin. They put out the snacks they had — pretzels and peanuts — and restroom breaks were frequent. As the hours went by and the provisions began to run low, people started to wonder how long we would be sitting there. The updates we got were ‘there’s no update.’ People were feeling helpless.”

Coutu, 38, said he is a Type-1 diabetic. He alerted the Southwest crew of his predicament. Emergency crews were called and he was taken to Broward Health Medical Center in an ambulance, where he was quickly treated and released.

“They could be there all night, nobody knows,” Coutu said, thinking of the other passengers. “We were beginning to panic; a mob mentality will take over. They have to feed them, get water out there.

“The airport crew did a great job of trying to keep up. They had a lot of trucks out there.”

Doug Seidler, a 70-year-old building consultant from Seattle, was also at the hospital Friday afternoon.

Seidler said he brought his wife, Joyce, to the emergency room after she broke her hip on a cruise ship. “She’s looking at a double hip replacement,” he said.

Seidler also had a brother-in-law and sister-in-law at the airport around the time of the incident and didn’t know when they would be able to fly home.

“We’re trying to get them out. We can’t get them out,” Seidler said. “Total lockdown. We know they can’t fly out [Friday]. We know that.”

Seidler said his in-laws told him they “heard shots in Terminal 1 after they saw the commotion in Terminal 2.

“I’m a calm guy; it is what it is. We’ll deal with authorities as we need to.”

Later in the evening, Gov. Rick Scott appeared at the hospital and called the shooting “clearly an evil, brutal act. According to law enforcement, five individuals lost their lives and we know others are fighting for their lives.”

“I came to the hospital to do what I did after Pulse: to thank those individuals who take care of the patients who end up in these hospitals. They are working hard to save peoples lives. This is a great hospital.”

“I was able to speak to a couple of patients and they feel blessed to be alive,” Scott said. “They are looking forward to getting on with their lives.”

Video shows chaotic scene at baggage claim at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, including one shooting victim.

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