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Frist offers 'invaluable' aid to crash victims

Two dead after highway mishap

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

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Sen. Bill Frist, who is a doctor, assists people injured in a Florida highway accident.
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (CNN) -- Four victims of an SUV crash are recovering in Florida hospitals Thursday after getting "invaluable" medical aid from incoming Senate majority leader and doctor Bill Frist.

The Tennessee Republican -- who was driving near the accident scene -- stopped and helped emergency workers treat the crash victims after their vehicle rolled over several times after an apparent tire blowout.

A 10-year-old girl died at the scene and a 14-year-old boy who was riding in the cargo area of the SUV died Thursday.

Two women passengers in the SUV were in very critical condition Thursday and the conditions of two men in the vehicle had been upgraded from serious to fair, a spokeswoman for Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale said.

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

Frist 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, spokesman Nick Smith said.

'Above and beyond'

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," Leduc said. "He really went above and beyond the call to help."

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."

Capt. Jeffrey Andrews of Broward County Fire Rescue, one of the paramedics on the scene, said he worked side-by-side with the senator and didn't find out who he was until all the victims were cleared from the accident site.

He said one of the victims, a woman, had severe trauma to her face and neck and paramedics had difficulty putting in a breathing tube.

Without Frist's help, Andrews said, they probably wouldn't have succeeded.

"He knew the procedures that we were doing and he knew what needed to be done to get the tracheal tube in place," he said. "He was beside me the whole time, helping to open the airway and place the tube in."

Later, Andrews asked the man who had helped so much if he had any medical training. "I think he told me he was a surgeon," he said.

Not a first for Frist

"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," Frist said in a statement.

"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."

start quoteAs a doctor, my first instincts are to help.end quote
-- Sen. Bill Frist

start quoteIt made all the difference; his help was invaluableend quote
-- Todd Leduc, Broward County Fire Rescue Assistant Chief

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 next week when Congress reconvenes.

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 was in the Senate chamber when a gunman fired at people inside the Capitol. Two Capitol police officers were killed and a female tourist was wounded in the attack.

Frist aided the victims and the gunman, who was wounded by police gunfire. Frist resuscitated the gunman 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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