From the community

Maine dispatchers, Lifeflight workers honored for saving snowmobiler

Posted April 12, 2013, at 12:06 p.m.
From left to right: boyfriend Phil Clarkin and snowmobile crash victim Bonnie Sancomb, both from Massachusetts; Jon Roebuck, Lifeflight; Stephen Crowe and Shane Hunt, Somerset Communications; Jessica Mihalik. DPS; Margaret Parady, Somerset; and Jennifer Berube, Joanna Keneflick, Susan Poulin, all from DPS. Absent from photo: Darren Curtis from DPS.
Maine Department of Public Safety
From left to right: boyfriend Phil Clarkin and snowmobile crash victim Bonnie Sancomb, both from Massachusetts; Jon Roebuck, Lifeflight; Stephen Crowe and Shane Hunt, Somerset Communications; Jessica Mihalik. DPS; Margaret Parady, Somerset; and Jennifer Berube, Joanna Keneflick, Susan Poulin, all from DPS. Absent from photo: Darren Curtis from DPS.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association held its annual conference and training this week in Portland, which involved con.  The conference continued education training for emergency dispatchers from all across Maine, as well as Vermont.

The conference ended with the presentation of awards to five dispatchers that delivered babies over the phone in 2012 using Emergency Medical Dispatch protocols. The Critical Incident of the Year award went to the three dispatch centers from Central Maine Regional Communications Center in Augusta, overseen by the Maine Department of Public Safety, the Somerset Regional Communications Center, and LifeFlight of Maine for their response to an injured snowmobiler in the remote woods north of Rockwood in March of last year.

Maine Public Safety Dispatch Supervisor Chad Labree said that on March 8, 2012, snowmobiler Bonnie Sancomb was lying on her back in the snow about 45 feet from the trail, in woods north of Rockwood. She had missed a corner, the same corner that snuck up on her the day before, but that was not the worst part of her situation. Her 500-pound snow sled had landed directly on her chest and abdomen and she could not push it off, however this still was not her biggest problem. What was causing the massive damage was the snowmobile track that continued to turn slowly tearing and shredding her clothing and eventually her skin.

“I remember a brief silence and then hitting the ground hard,” Bonnie recalls. “I landed on my back and the sled came down on top of me, pinning my left arm. I tried to push the sled off with my right arm, but couldn’t reach over the track to get to the bumper. All I could think was, ‘how do I get myself out of this?’”

Bonnie heard the rest of her party drive by, unable to see her off the trail in this life-threatening situation.  She waited another 15 minutes before they doubled back and found her. At 10:38 a.m., the 9-1-1 call from Bonnie’s boyfriend was received at CMRCC by Emergency Communications Specialist Jennifer Berube. He advised that there was a very serious snowmobile accident and all of Bonnie’s internal organs were exposed, “Very bad I can see all of her insides.”

CMRCC immediately started Maine Warden Service Units and notified Somerset RCC to start rescue personnel to the scene. This happened on Route 66 about 13 miles out of Rockwood Township and about five miles from ITS 88. Somerset immediately notified LifeFlight. All the responders were heading to the scene and Bonnie’s boyfriend and the rest of her party did everything they could with the help of ECS Berube to keep her alive.

Constant contact between all three Dispatch Centers and the caller was maintained for more than 55 minutes as the call progressed. Upon arrival, LifeFlight found the patient drifting in and out of consciousness with massive injuries to her chest and abdomen. Bonnie was struggling to breathe and her blood pressure had bottomed out. 

This truly was the “golden hour;” Bonnie literally had only a few minutes left when LifeFlight arrived.  Without the dedicated personnel working collaboratively to figure out where she was and getting resources moving Bonnie would not have survived. In this case, it was bringing the hospital to the patient that made the difference. 

After 1st Vice President Bernard “Buster” Brown of National NENA read the nomination, the three-agency team of Jennifer Berube, Susan Poulin, Jessica Mihalik, Joanna Keneflick, Darren Curtis, Shane Hunt, Margaret Parady, Stephen Crowe and Jon Roebuck were brought up on stage and presented with the award.

Maine NENA Chapter President Chad LaBree continued to congratulate the team stating that it is very seldom that dispatchers seldom get any closure with incidents they are involved in. Most times dispatchers go from one call to another some they never think about again and others weigh on you mind for years.  

“You wonder how a person is doing after domestic violence call, a bad accident, a child birth and a CPR call,” says LaBree. LaBree then turned to look at all of the award winners on stage and said, “I am here to tell you that you no longer have to wonder, Bonnie come on out.”  Bonnie Sancomb and her boyfriend then emerged from a door just off the side of the stage to meet the talented men and woman who on March 8, 2012 saved her life. 

“This was truly a special and emotional day not only for everyone involved but for everyone who was present at this year’s conference,” says LaBree. “When I thanked Bonnie for accepting our invitation and taking the time to drive from Massachusetts to be with us she said, ‘there was no way I could say no, they were all there and never gave up on me and I was going to be here for them.’”

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