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Rescuers get another look at Lonz disaster

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Emergency personnel watch the program at the Sandusky County Regional Airport.


CLYDE, Ohio - Nearly three years later, the chaos and destruction of the Lonz Winery terrace collapse is still fresh in John Domer's mind.

“The hardest thing for us was, we knew it was bad because of the blood,” he said, recalling the July 1, 2000 disaster, which killed one person and injured 75. “No matter where we went to look, there was blood.”

Mr. Domer, a Put-in-Bay EMS volunteer, was one of more than 50 emergency personnel who gathered last night at the Sandusky County Regional Airport to watch a televised re-enactment of the collapse on Middle Bass Island and its aftermath.

Race Against Time, broadcast by the Discovery Channel cable network, depicted the terrace's collapse, but focused on the work of paramedics, nurses, and doctors to find, transport, and treat the victims. It included interviews with some emergency responders and victims.


Shannon Belcher of the North Central Emergency Medical Services reacts to the Discovery Channel documentary.


Julie Goins, a Life Flight nurse who helped treat and load patients onto helicopters outside the winery, took some good-natured ribbing for her appearances in the program.

“Can I have your autograph?” joked Brad Gilbert, a member of the Harris-Elmore Fire Department.

“As soon as I get yours,” Ms. Goins replied.

The show received mostly positive reviews from the audience of rescue workers, who watched the program on a projection screen in the Life Flight hangar at the airport near Clyde.

As its closing credits rolled, the crowd clapped and cheered.

“It's got good points and bad points. Mostly good,” said Keith Kahler, EMS manager for Put-in-Bay. “It doesn't have all the screaming and yelling. It's a lot cleaner on TV than it was in real life. It doesn't seem the magnitude on TV that it was that day. .. When we got there, there were people laying everywhere.”

Ms. Goins said the program was well done.

“I think they've done a great job,” the nurse said. “The Discovery Channel has worked really hard to make things accurate, and they should be commended.”

Some in the audience noted that the program's narrator kept referring to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center during footage taken outside the Medical College of Ohio Hospitals. Both Toledo hospitals treated patients with severe injuries from the terrace collapse.

Others said the terrace depicted in the documentary was smaller than the Lonz patio that plunged 20 feet.

“It was a lot larger area than what they're showing,” said Chuck Joseph, an emergency medical technician with the Catawba Island Township fire department.

Mr. Joseph and Dr. George Magill, director of the emergency room at Magruder Hospital in Port Clinton, said the program depicted an emergency response plan that worked almost to perfection. Magruder's emergency room treated more than 40 victims that day.

“This is a good example,” Dr. Magill said. “We practice several times a year, but you never know if your disaster plan is going to work until you use it - and ours did.”

Jeff Jackson, a captain with Sandusky County EMS who was on standby during the rescue efforts, said the program was a well-deserved salute to the emergency responders.

“It's awesome, recognizing the stuff that these guys went through,” he said. “You want to talk about saving lives, there's a whole room of people here who do that every day.”

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