When disaster strikes far out on the lake’s waters, are emergency personnel ready? | TahoeDailyTribune.com

When disaster strikes far out on the lake’s waters, are emergency personnel ready?

It was grim. Under cloudy gray skies and a mile off Tahoe’s South Shore, a passenger on the Tahoe Queen falls victim to a heart attack. Well, not really.

The mock scenario organized by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department took place on the regularly scheduled Tuesday morning cruise on the Queen.

“This is almost the exact scenario as if it were happening in real life,” said Sgt. Les Scott of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. “It’s an opportunity to see how well we can handle an emergency situation on the lake.”

Although the staged rescue was announced over the loud speaker as the 500-passenger sternwheeler left the dock at Ski Run Marina, some thought it was real.

Like 12-year-old Jad Andari of Simi Valley, Calif.

“I saw him fall over and then the lady yelled for help,” he said. “I thought it was real and I ran up (to the Captain on the bridge) and told him to call 911.”

When Andari alerted the crew, Tahoe Queen Captains John Gallagher and Chris Gallup went into action.

At 10:33 a.m., just seconds after the victim felt his first flinches of false heart pain, Captain Gallup was making an initial assessment of the situation. When the situation looked serious, Captain Gallagher called the police via marine radio and asked for assistance.

By 10:48 a.m. police are in route from Tahoe Key Marina on their marine vessel with fire personnel and Lake Tahoe Ambulance crew on board.

Less than 20 minutes after the first cry for help, the medical personnel arrived and started treatment. Minutes later, the patient was on his way to shore.

Captains Gallagher and Gallup said, although this is the first practice rescue on the Queen, medical situation similar to these have occurred in real life on the boat.

“A few years ago we had to have the captain rescued from the boat because of heart trouble,” Gallagher said.

Gallup added that he’s seen a number of rescues off the Tahoe Queen in the 11 years he’s been on board.

“We had one child split his head open, another guy who we thought had a ruptured spleen and one guy had a heart attack on the third level of the boat – just like we practiced today,” he said. “But we’ve never had to do CPR on board.”

But Gallagher said all the crew members aboard the Tahoe Queen are prepared for such an event.

“Everyone on board, from waiters to captains, is CPR certified,” he said.

Gallagher said rescue scenarios such as fire on board and man overboard are practiced on a monthly basis on the Tahoe Queen.

Sgt. Les Scott, of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, said Tuesday’s medical rescue was a success.

“Overall, I’m very pleased with the response,” he said. “I think we could get the medical units out to the boat faster in a real situation because they would be able to respond with lights and sirens.”

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