The Trauma Star air ambulance program just ended a record year over the busy holiday weekend, transporting four people who were critically injured in a fatal, head-on collision in the Lower Keys to a Miami trauma center.
With that horrific Dec. 30 accident, Trauma Star’s total number of patients flown in 2016 was 528. That is 131 more patients flown than was the case in 2015, when the previous record was set with 397.
Of those 528 patients flown in 2016, the breakdown is: 114 for trauma, 17 for strokes, 18 for heart attacks, 378 inter-facility flights for life-saving treatment and one first response to the Dry Tortugas.
“Trauma Star has been a vitally needed service for the Keys,” Monroe County Fire Chief Jim Callahan said. “Since we started it in 2006, Trauma Star has saved the lives of many of our residents and visitors. Unfortunately, a tragedy like the one that occurred just before New Year’s Eve shows just how vital.”
Monroe County Fire Rescue units responded to the accident at Mile Marker 16, extricating some of the victims out of the vehicles and assist with patient care. Trauma Star flew two people from the scene to a Miami hospital. It returned to the Lower Keys Medical Center, where it picked up two more victims from the crash to take to Miami.
Trauma Star is the joint program of Monroe County Fire Rescue and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. It serves people up and down the 120-mile long island chain, and those who are visiting the Dry Tortugas. Trauma Star is staffed with highly trained critical care nurses, firefighter/paramedics and pilots. It’s capable of rapidly transporting two patients per flight.
Since Trauma Star began operations, it has flown 2,745 people to life-saving care on the mainland. With the program’s first helicopter aging and thus requiring more maintenance that is costly and leads to more down time, Monroe County purchased a second helicopter last year. That helicopter became the primary transport, with the original helicopter serving as a backup.
Trauma Star does not collect any out-of-pocket money from Monroe County residents.
Cammy Clark is Monroe County’s public information officer.