Butler County emergency room doctor reflects on I-65 crash

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 5:18 PM CDT
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BUTLER COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - The pileup involving 17 vehicles and 10 deaths near Greenville is still being talked about and reflected upon days after the tragedy. Nearby emergency rooms snapped-to once word got out there were multiple injuries.

Saturday started out as just another day in the ER at Regional Medical Center of Central Alabama in Greenville. That is until around 2:30 p.m. when the atmosphere changed; the ultimate emergency, one Dr. Norman McGowin had never encountered before.

“Yeah, that’s the biggest mass casualty incident I’ve been involved with,” McGowin confirmed.

Those forever connected to the crash such as first responders and medical personnel say they can’t ever recall such a catastrophic event happening on Interstate 65 with so many people dying.

The scanner blared with dreadful reports of deaths, injuries and the desperate call for backup from first responders. McGowin just felt in his spirit this would be different, and it was.

“We also sent word out to the floors and we got a couple more nurses to come up and help us,” he said.

Ambulances started arriving soon after; paramedics rushed in a total of six crash victims.

“Two major patients with severe injuries and then there were another four young people who were ‘walking wounded,’” McGowin remembered.

The doctor says the team never got overwhelmed or faltered. They did what they were trained to do; they offered the best medical care under trying circumstances. Challenging moments like the fact the weather wouldn’t allow medical helicopters to fly and the deluge of phone calls from loved ones.

Another day in the ER turned out to be anything but routine, a day McGowin, nurses and hospital administrators will never forget or dismiss the unspeakable trauma experienced by so many.

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