An Odessa man and former ICU nurse reacted immediately after hearing the impact of a wreck that sent five people to the hospital Wednesday afternoon.
Louis Serrano III, who works as a nurse at a dialysis clinic, said he was traveling east on Eighth Street on Wednesday when he heard the impact of the accident over his stereo and did not immediately know where the noise came from, but soon found out.
“I got to the site and saw the first victim struggling out of the driver’s side — the car was smoking,” Serrano said. “I saw his injuries and thought, ‘Man, I need to make sure this guy doesn’t bleed out.’ ”
The driver Serrano described is 17-year-old Edgar Polanco, who was driving the 2001 tan Mercury Grand Marquis, occupied also by Odessa High School students 15-year-old Alicia Valdez and 16-year-old Kaely Chacon at the time of the accident.
A news release from the Odessa Police Department stated the Grand Marquis was traveling east on Eighth Street, ran a red light and collided with a Lincoln Navigator driven by 32-year-old Yvonne Natividad and occupied by passenger Robert Gomez, 44. Odessa Police and Odessa Fire Rescue responded to this accident just after 2 p.m.
Serrano said the scene was chaotic and after first seeing Polanco, he started to count the number of victims there.
He said the two people in the Navigator were “pretty banged up and in shock,” but that they seemed to be stabilized for the moment so he went back to the Grand Marquis.
Serrano said Polanco was not losing any major blood, and after stabilizing his neck, Serrano put a bystander on guard to keep Polanco from moving.
“There was a young lady on the other side of the car so I went to stabilize her and put another bystander there to make sure she didn’t move her neck,” Serrano said as his voice started to shake recounting the event that he said has been on his mind ever since.
Serrano said Polanco asked him “if the girls were OK” but continued he had not seen anyone else but Chacon.
He said he looked in the back seat and saw Valdez “crumpled” on the floorboard like a “folded blanket.”
“She wasn’t breathing,” Serrano said. “I thought she wasn’t going to live unless I did something so I made a call — I tried my best to rip the door off the hinges and I got in and began working to stabilize her.”
Serrano said once he freed Valdez’ diaphragm, she began to breath, so he turned her on her side, made sure her airway stayed open and she had a pulse while they waited for paramedics.
“I told my mom yesterday I just felt helpless,” Serrano said, adding that this situation was different from his 14 years as a nurse in an ICU. “There we have time to prepare—this felt like it took three hours but it was really just a few minutes.”
Serrano said when emergency responders made the scene he was able to help with treatment times as he was able to alert them to the conditions of the victims involved in the accident.
He said the emergency responders responded quickly and professionally, saying “it was a horrible scene, but I don’t think it could be handled any better.”
Lupita Molina, Valdez’s cousin, confirmed Valdez was in the backseat of the vehicle at the time of the accident.
Molina said Valdez was in a coma Thursday at Medical Center Hospital.
Both Polanco and Chacon were released from MCH Thursday morning. There were a number of well wishes from friends and families on their Facebook pages.
Polanco posted a status Thursday afternoon saying he’d like to ask for forgiveness, apologizing “for what (he) did” and that God was watching over them.
No charges have been filed by Thursday. Police were still investigating the accident.
ECISD Director of Communications Mike Adkins said Valdez and Chacon are students at Odessa High School and that Polanco is a former student who is not currently enrolled with ECISD.
He said Valdez and Chacon were at lunch at the time of the accident around 2:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Serrano said recounting the scene of the accident and not knowing Valdez’ condition, though he heard she was struggling in the hospital, caused a physical reaction.
“There were other healthcare professionals there working to help out,” Serrano said. “I never stopped to look up and ask who’s who — I just went on autopilot.”
Contact Chris Bartlett at 432-333-7782, email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @OAChrisBartlett