When a car plowed into a crowd of people at a busy Washington, D.C. street fair this weekend, firefighters and EMS workers sprang into action.
"It was just crazy," D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Alan Etter said of the Saturday evening accident. "People were running and screaming."
It happened at Unifest, a block party held every year Washington's historic Anacostia neighborhood.
The festival was winding down, but Etter said several hundred people were still in attendance when Tonya Bell's grey station wagon came barreling down Martin Luther King Avenue. Police estimate she was going 60 mph. Etter said the woman hit the crowd and kept going.
"It was a hellish scene. I have not seen anything like that in the city."
But first responders were ready. Etter said a contingent of EMS workers was already on-hand for the festival, and those responders were able to immediately call for back-up. He said the incident happened around 7:45 p.m., and the mass casualty task force was on the scene in less than 10 minutes.
Forty people were struck in the incident. Etter said 36 people, including the suspect, were hospitalized. He said seven of those people were injured seriously. Injuries ranged from broken bones to lacerations. Amazingly, no one suffered serious internal injuries or head trauma.
Etter said the scene was chaotic. He said witnesses described seeing victims tossed into the air as the car plowed through the crowd.
Nevertheless, responders were efficient in handling the mass casualty incident.
"It was a mammoth job triaging all those people," Etter said. But they were all quickly transported to seven nearby hospitals and all treated efficiently. He said that after treatment, most victims' conditions were upgraded. Only one victim remained hospitalized.
"It was a very fast response time on behalf of firefighters and EMTs." Etter said this was D.C. first responders' first mass casualty incident since the attack on the Pentagon in 2001. He attributes the crew's quick work to training.
"As a matter of routine, we drill all year long for similar scenarios - this type of training pays off," he said. "Our members were calm and collected and we coordinated with hospitals to make sure this was taken care of."
Thirty-year-old Tonya Bell is charged with aggravated assault while armed.