Wednesday, May 12, 1999


Los Angeles Times
Back home in California, Dr. Geoff Scott of UCI
Medical Center yesterday described the carnage he
saw while helping to rescue people at Sacred
Falls on Sunday.

Doctor, wife recall
brush with death

By Susan Kreifels


Wonder over the quirks of fate and God's plan. Appreciation for the important things of life -- family and health. And amazement at the heroics of unknown people brought together under horrific circumstances.

Two days after they and their two children missed a landslide by minutes at Sacred Falls, Geoff and Dana Scott are contemplating those heavy issues.

"There's a reason for all to occur, a greater plan that we came out uninjured," Dana Scott, 35, said yesterday in a telephone interview from her home in Anaheim, Calif.

Maybe, she guesses, part of the "big plan" was having her doctor husband there to help.

The family was two to three minutes from Sacred Falls when they heard the roar of the landslide that killed eight people and injured at least 33 on Sunday. Dr. Geoff Scott, 37, sent his family back while he went ahead to a carnage of torn bodies.

Scott, a head and neck surgeon at the University of California-Irvine Medical Center, was the only doctor on the scene. He set up a triage operation and directed people he didn't know, many of them seriously injured themselves, to help those in more desperate need.

They worked together as rocks continued to slide in the "fall zone," fearful they could be covered as well.

Scott was amazed by a handful of "significant heroes" like Julian Degrandis, a young man who lay on the rocks for two hours so a woman in agonizing pain could lie on top of him. She was unable to tolerate the hard rock surface, so "he took her pain," Scott said.

Then there was "Matt," a young Kaneohe Marine who, despite a broken finger, injured leg and back, helped carry out victims. Another man whose broken foot bone was protruding hauled out people as well. A woman named Lisa helped get everyone through the chaos of the afternoon.

Scott said if he'd had more advanced equipment, like advanced cardiac life support, he could have helped more victims. But he also knows the rugged terrain made it difficult for rescue workers to haul in such equipment.

"They did their best -- fire, police, military," Scott said. "Everybody did a great job."

Capt. Richard Soo, spokesman for the Honolulu Fire Department, said the most advanced equipment rescue workers are trained to use is automatic defibrillators. But Soo said that equipment can't be used in a wet environment like Sacred Falls because the equipment runs off electricity.

Soo said the rescue workers carried basic life support gear: backboards, splints and oxygen bottles. In Hawaii, unlike California, more advanced equipment is used only by ambulance crews, which were waiting at the entrance to Sacred Falls State Park.

"Under very trying conditions ... the Honolulu Fire Department did a remarkable and commendable job," Soo said.

Scott said he deals with death and suffering every day, but always in a hospital.

E-mail to City Desk

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