Faced With Emergency, UC Doctor Aids Victims of Bus Crash

A leisurely drive to a conference turned harrowing in an instant for a UC College of Medicine  department chair and his wife when they came upon a tragic bus wreck that took the lives of eight people and injured 14 others. With quick action, both were able to help victims and the emergency responders who rushed to the scene.

Fred Lucas, MD, chair of the department of pathology and laboratory medicine and MacKenzie Chair of Pathology, and medical director of anatomic and clinical pathology at UC Health University of Cincinnati Medical Center, and his wife, Johna Lucas, MD, were traveling on Interstate 40 in Tennessee Wednesday. They were headed to a regional conference of the Association of Pathology Chairs in Asheville, N.C. , when they came upon the accident site near I-40’s split with I-81 involving a church bus, a tractor-trailer and an SUV.

Lucas, reached by telephone Thursday, says he estimates he and his wife came upon the scene just after the accident occurred. Johna Lucas called 911 and provided the operator with details from the scene; emergency responders arrived shortly thereafter.

“We didn’t see it exactly as it happened, but we got there within minutes by my estimate,” Lucas said. “We came around a corner and saw the big black cloud of smoke.

“We just jumped in—an enormous fire had engulfed the entire cab of the tractor-trailer.”

Lucas said that at that point, medical training and the instinct to help kicked in for him and his wife. He pulled a dead woman away from the fire and also pulled away another woman who later died before his eyes.

“There were no supplies at first, so there was not much we could do other than get people away from the fire and help them be as comfortable as possible,” he said.

Once emergency responders arrived, the Lucases helped place survivors on boards for transport to area hospitals.

Lucas commended the work of the first responders, noting that he has seen the work of emergency department clinicians and staff at UC Medical Center and knows how much skill and expertise is involved.

As for his role Wednesday, Lucas—who described himself as a “behind-the-scenes guy” in his work as a pathologist studying the nature of disease and its causes—was modest.

“All we did was help; there was no more to it than that,” he said.

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