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'Organized chaos': Billings hospitals respond to deck collapse

First Responders
Posted at 6:27 PM, Jul 23, 2023

On Saturday evening, a deck at The Briarwood country club and golf course collapsed, sending nearly 50 people to the two Billings hospitals.

Mikel Garcia and his wife were among the 25 transported from the site to one of the hospitals in an ambulance. Many others were taken to the hospital later on by other vehicles.

"It was just brutal," Garcia said Sunday afternoon in his hospital bed at the Billings Clinic. "It was just kind of chaos."

Garcia said the collapse happened fast.

"I heard something," Garcia said. "It sounded like breaking wood and then we were on the ground. I tried to get up and I couldn't move, so I just laid back down. When you're on the ground, I was more concerned about my wife and a lot of my friends that were just right there hurt."

Garcia

Both St. Vincent's Healthcare and the Billings Clinic initiated emergency protocols, in order to accept the mass amount of patients. Billings Clinic Michael Englehart said these events are exactly what they prepare for.

"This sort of things are sort are always organized chaos," Englehart said. "That's why we plan for them and that's why we drill them incessantly."

Both hospitals instituted a triage system, which made sure that patients were prioritized to receive proper care.

"That helps us triage who needs to where first, and who the sickest ones are so we can be ready," Englehart said.

At St. Vincent's, it was a similar story as employees and doctors were called in to prepare for the influx of patients. Emergency physician Jim Bentler said it was a trying time that his team responded well too.

"It was stressful, but things got done quickly and there was some significant injuries that were triaged appropriately and got to where they needed to be," Bentler said.

Garcia suffered a broken pelvis and tailbone and is prepping for surgery on Monday. For now, he's just grateful that both he and his wife are recovering and he's thankful that the city was prepared.

"Like I said, I just fell 14 feet with 40 of my friends, and it just seemed like everything ran smoothly and I think that's huge."