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Sen. Frist responds to fatal accident

Republican leader's help said to be 'invaluable'

Florida Highway Patrol officers on the scene of the Alligator Alley accident

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (CNN) -- Incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a surgeon, gave medical care Wednesday to six people ejected from an Isuzu SUV when it rolled over on Interstate 75 in western Broward County, officials said.

A 10-year-old girl died at the scene, according to Broward County Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Todd Leduc. Two women were in critical condition and two men were in serious condition at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, said spokeswoman Jenny Pudwell.

A child was later transferred to Memorial Regional Hospital in nearby Hollywood, Pudwell said. A spokeswoman there could not give any information on the child's condition.

The Isuzu was eastbound about 3:30 p.m. on the section of I-75 known as Alligator Alley that runs across the Everglades when a tire blew out and the entire tread came off, officials said.

Nick Smith, a spokesman for Frist, said the Tennessee Republican was spending time with his family in Florida and was driving with two of his sons when he came upon the scene shortly after the accident.

Leduc said Frist, along with some off-duty firefighters and paramedics who also were driving by, aided the victims until Broward County Fire Rescue vehicles and personnel could respond.

"When you're waiting for backup, it can be lonely," Leduc said. "[Frist] helped assess victims and did some medical procedures, including putting people on life support systems, and helped get the medical equipment in order.

"It made all the difference, his help was invaluable."

Capt. Ken Kronheim of Broward County Fire Rescue said "the most important thing Dr. Frist did was triage the scene for us, which basically means sorting out the patients according to priority.

"He actually pulled me away from one patient to render care to another patient, who he correctly identified as being more critical."

In a statement, Frist said: "As a doctor, my first instincts are to help, and I was privileged to offer my assistance today at the scene of this horrible accident.

"My heart goes out to this family which must face the start of the New Year with this terrible tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with them."

Bill Frist

Frist also praised the emergency medical personnel on the scene and the law enforcement officers.

Frist was recently elected Senate Republican leader to replace Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, who resigned his post after making comments that appeared to support segregation.

Frist will begin his new job when Republicans assume majority control of the Senate when Congress reconvenes next week.

Wednesday's accident wasn't the first time Frist has used his medical expertise to help others while a senator.

On July 24, 1998, Frist had finished presiding over the Senate when a gunman fired at people inside the Capitol. Two Capitol police officers were killed and a female tourist was wounded.

Frist aided the victims and the gunman, who was wounded by police gunfire. Frist resuscitated the suspect before he was transported to a hospital.

On October 2, 2001, Frist went to the aid of now-retired Sen. Strom Thurmond after the veteran lawmaker fell ill in the Senate chamber.

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