Written by Hillsboro Free Press Tuesday, 21 August 2012 13:17
Bad policy adds to horrible accident
My name is Theresa Kasten, mother of 17-year-old Seth Biehler, who was a backseat passenger in a truck that was involved in a head-on collision just south of Herington on U.S. Highway 56/77 at about 11:45 a.m. Aug. 10.
At 11:49 that morning I received a call from Seth telling me what had happened. He said he thought everybody in their truck was OK but there was a car with children in it, and they were not. I asked if he called 911 and he stated he had.
I immediately left work and headed out there. When I arrived a few minutes later, I was horrified by what I saw. There were several people there already, passersby and a few people from a nearby home. They were all attempting to help in a very desperate situation.
As I am sure you are aware, 20-year-old Amber Alfred died on impact and her 2-year-old son, Josiah Alfred, was close to, if not already, dead. It is my understanding that her 6-year-old son, Keith Johnson, remains in critical condition and her 21-year-old husband, Bryan Alfred, is stable.
You can only imagine what that must have looked like and how horrific it was. After several minutes I asked my son, Seth, “You called 911, right?” He said, “Yes, it went to Dickinson County and they transferred my call to Marion County.”
I checked his phone and he had indeed called 911 at 11:45. I trusted that immediate help was on its way. However, it seemed like an eternity before medical personnel arrived, most of whom were not identifiable, so I cannot be for sure of when they actually did get there.
When you start mixing civilians trying to help with unidentified medical personnel, it is really hard to tell the difference, making the scene even more chaotic than it already was. It wasn’t until what seemed much later that Herington Rescue and EMS arrived.
Later that evening I spoke to Herington Fire Chief Ken Staatz and asked him to find out what had happened and how it had gone so wrong. I asked him to find out why everybody had to wait for Marion County personnel to get there when Herington was so much closer, and why Herington hadn’t been notified sooner.
While I am sure Marion County has qualified EMTs and firefighters, I know Herington does too, and they are quite a bit closer. He assured me he would check into it.
I followed up with Fire Chief Staatz on Monday and was mortified to hear the reason behind all this was not human error, but policies put in place by your commission making everything in Marion County as your territory no matter which agency was closer.
I would like to put this in perspective for you. People were dead and children were dying. Lives were forever changed that day, and initial medical care was delayed because somebody purposefully made a conscious decision to make it that way. If that was your family laying in that ditch dead and dying would you want help delayed? Would you want the medical personnel that were closer, or the ones that were further away?
Common sense says you would want the fastest medical care available. Would that 20 minutes or so that might have been saved if Herington had been paged initially, had made a difference in the lives that were lost that day and the one that is still barely hanging on? I honestly don’t know. I suppose only God himself can answer that for sure.
The bigger question is, are you willing to live with the fact that your politics and your decisions may have been the reason this ended so tragically? How many more lives are you willing to risk?
It is too little too late for those affected by the events of that day, but I would hope, and encourage you to rethink your policies and your politics and your territories and do what’s right. I am requesting that you change your policies effective immediately and allow the most immediate medical care be available to those who need it.
I would also ask that for anything that is questionable on who is to respond, that you have both respond. It’s time to set your territories aside and do what’s best.
Theresa A. Kasten
Editor’s note: Ms. Kasten said she sent this letter to the Marion County commissioners Aug. 16. When she submitted it as a letter to the editor Monday, she added a footnote that on Aug. 18 one of the commissioners called her to address her concerns. According to Ms. Kasten, the commissioner stated he has been trying for the past three years to get these policies changed and has been unable to do so thus far. He also stated that Herington is not the only area affected by this issue, and this was not the only time something like this has happened. Kasten responded: “I encourage you to make a difference, if not for you, then for friends or family who may someday be in affected.”
Blood donors helped save lives Aug. 13
Thank you to everyone who participated in the American Red Cross blood drive Aug. 13 in Hillsboro. Fifty people came in to share their life-giving blood. We can feel proud that we did our civic duty to help ensure lifesaving blood is available for patients throughout our area.
As a blood donor or volunteer, each of you helped the Red Cross fulfill its mission of a safe and ample blood supply. Hospital patients rely on us and we delivered.
I hope you will help save more lives during our next drive planned for Oct. 11 at the Hillsboro MB?Church. If you would like to help, please call one of us.
Shirley Kasper (947-5719)
Gladys Funk (877-7267)
Local blood-drive chairs