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Witnesses recount fatal WMC crash
Crash

Witnesses recount fatal WMC crash

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Cleta Kawa sat at the window of her third-story hospital room Sunday night, feeding McKenzie, her one-and-a-half week old premature daughter.

She watched a green Chevrolet Cavalier speed down Second Street, drifting from the left lane into the right and then onto the sidewalk in front of Wyoming Medical Center. The car, she thought, was traveling at least 60 mph – double the speed limit.

Kawa looked back to her baby and other two children, 2-year-old Kristine and 4-year-old Isiah. She assumed the Chevy would swerve back onto the road.

Then she heard the impact.

The hospital went quiet.

***

Emergency room nurses Amy Sorenson and Sarah Frank leave the hospital at 7:10 p.m. each day to walk with the other nurses to their cars parked on Conwell Street, which runs next to WMC.

At 6:55 Sunday they were preparing to depart when an ER technician shouted that there had been a car crash in front of the hospital.

“A couple of us went trotting over there not thinking anything of it. You know, it’s 30 miles per hour, it can’t be too bad,” Sorenson said. “Then we see people running with beds outside.”

Paramedics, nurses and doctors were swarming the car and assessing the three people inside.

Sorenson ran back inside the hospital to get intubation kits, breathing tubes and backboards. She relayed the conditions of the car’s occupants to the nurses and doctors inside so they could prepare.

“We’re trained in the ER to hope for the best and expect the worst,” Frank said.

***

Cleta Kawa could feel the vibrations from the impact in her third-floor room. She's never experienced an earthquake, but she imagines that’s what it felt like.

The Cavalier had collided with a concrete emergency room sign in front of the hospital, throwing bricks onto Second and Conwell streets.

“The sound wasn’t as bad as the actual feeling,” Kawa said.

The crash killed the Cavalier’s two passengers, 27-year-olds Brandon Avery and Amanda Strickland. A girl whom police suspect was driving the car suffered critical injuries, though she is now stable. Authorities did not release her identity.

Within seconds, an ambulance drove around the block from the garage on Conwell Street. Paramedics ran alongside it.

Kawa watched medics cut the door from the car and remove the driver. She saw someone putting blankets over the car, and at first she didn’t understand why.

“It dawned on me that it was a fatality,” Kawa said.

Her son was elated when two fire trucks arrived, their ladders stretching to the third floor. Then he asked his mom why the doctors weren’t helping the other people in the car.

Kawa closed the blinds.

***

Doctors and nurses ran back and forth from the emergency room. Each had a job to do, all centered on the wrecked Cavalier.

The nurses weren’t sure how many people were in the car, so they didn’t know at first how many rooms to prepare.

As an ER nurse, Frank is accustomed to having at least 10 minutes to prepare for trauma patients. Instead, she learned what it’s like to be a paramedic and care for patients before they’re removed from a crash.

“This literally happened on our front door,” Frank said.

Contact Lillian Schrock at 307-266-0574 or at lillian.schrock@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @lillieschrock.

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