Dunes mishaps pack Pioneers

November 27, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — For the doctors and nurses at Pioneers Memorial Hospital here, dealing with injuries among the crowds that fill the Imperial Sand Dunes for holiday weekends is nothing new.

They prepare for it each year. They expect to deal with a large number of cases. That's how it has been for years.

This year was different. Not only were there more cases, staffers who work in the hospital's emergency room said this holiday weekend was more violent than most they have experienced.

For one, there was a shooting — something staffers said they did not recall from the past.

In addition, two people were stabbed and others were injured in different confrontations in the dunes, including a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger struck purposely by the vehicle of a man reportedly trying to evade arrest.


Friday was the busiest day at the hospital.

Letty Duran, lead health coordinator in the Pioneers emergency room, said 162 patients went through triage and were treated for injuries Friday. That is a record number in a day for the emergency room.

She said the level of violence was unusual, adding while the hospital has seen those hurt in physical altercations, she cannot remember when the emergency room had to treat a gunshot victim from the dunes.

"It is supposed to be a family atmosphere, but it is becoming more dangerous," she said.

Dr. Michael Berger, director of the Pioneers ER, said last year a group of individuals went around the dunes beating people, but Berger agreed with Duran that this is the first time he has seen the hospital deal with a gunshot victim from the dunes.

Berger said there also was an increase in the number of cases in which people needed to be moved to operating rooms for special procedures.

He said more people than ever had to be flown from Pioneers to San Diego-area hospitals.

"It was like LAX," Berger said, adding helicopters were continuously flying to and from the hospital.

He said at one point Friday two helicopters left the hospital with victims nearly simultaneously.

Berger said victims could not be moved to El Centro Regional Medical Center because that hospital was dealing with a large number of patients from other areas of the county where off-roaders were injured.

>>Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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