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County applauds first responders in car melee on Strip

Metro, University Medical Center and the Clark County Fire Department were recognized Tuesday for their collective response the night police said a woman intentionally veered onto a sidewalk on the Strip, killing one woman and critically injuring five others.

“I would challenge any group of first responders, any city, to match what Clark County and Las Vegas are capable of doing,” County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said.

Leaders from each emergency response team looked at their police, fire and medical counterparts, about 30 men and women total, as they stood in two lines at the front of the commission chambers and spoke about the night of Dec. 20.

“You guys are awesome,” said Dr. Paul Chestovich, gesturing toward firefighters and police officers.

“I got in at 7 o’clock expecting a nice, quiet Sunday night,” said Chestovich, the trauma surgeon and main physician at UMC the night of the crash. At 7:05 p.m. he was told a woman had plowed into dozens of pedestrians on the Strip.

A team of anesthesiologists, surgeons, other doctors and nurses swarmed into the hospital bay within seconds and were ready when the most critical patient, 32-year-old Jessica Valenzuela, arrived at 7:09 p.m. She later died, Chestovich said.

Seventeen more patients, five of whom were critically injured, were delivered to the hospital every five minutes for 30 minutes, Chestovich said. He credited the Fire Department for its quick response.

“We were literally there within one minute of receiving the call,” said Fire Capt. Joe Geeb. At least 70 firefighters were called to the chaotic scene.

“I have very young firefighters on my crew. I think it sets a very good tone for them for the rest of their career,” Geeb said of the county’s recognition. “But at the end of the day we’re certainly just there to do our job.”

Cross-agency training is part of why police were so well-prepared, said Metro Deputy Chief Brett Zimmerman, who assisted in the criminal investigation that led to the arrest of 24-year-old Lakeisha Holloway, the driver in the case.

Fire and medical staff agreed.

“After 30 years of nursing … I’ve never been prouder to be part of a team,” said UMC charge nurse Toni Mullan, who worked the night of the crash. “I know it couldn’t have gone any better.”

The police and fire departments also thanked Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s security as well as the AMR and MedicWest ambulance companies for their help.

Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Find her on Twitter: @lauxkimber

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