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St. David's North ER resumes normal operations after fatal crash into building

Orange traffic cones are seen blocking the drive to the emergency room at St. David's North Austin Medical Center. A white truck is parked farther back in front of glass doors that have been boarded up with plywood from where a car crashed through Tuesday night.
Michael Minasi
/
KUT News
Doors have been boarded up with plywood after a car crashed into the emergency room at St. David's North Austin Medical Center on Tuesday.

The emergency room at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center has resumed normal operations after a car crashed through the facility's front doors Tuesday evening. One person died and five people were injured.

The Austin Police Department's Vehicular Homicide Unit is investigating the incident but reported that it did not appear to be an intentional act based on preliminary details. In follow-up remarks Wednesday, APD Public Information Officer Ariel Crumes said there was also no indication the driver suffered a medical episode.

Crumes identified the driver of the vehicle as Michelle Holloway, a 57-year-old woman. Holloway was pronounced dead on the scene after CPR was attempted.

Austin-Travis County EMS Chief Rob Luckritz said at a Tuesday press conference that ATCEMS received a 911 call at 5:38 p.m. reporting that a vehicle had crashed into the hospital’s ER, located just north of the Domain. The Austin Fire Department and APD also responded. The situation was initially declared a Level 4 Mass Casualty Incident, meaning “upwards of 10” patients may have been on the scene.

According to ATCEMS, six individuals were injured. One patient was treated onsite before being discharged and four were transported to other hospitals. Two children and one adult were sent to Dell Children’s Hospital, including one child with critical injuries. An adult with critical injuries was sent to St. David’s Round Rock hospital. Dr. Peter DeYoung, chief medical officer for St. David's North, said Wednesday that the adult with critical injuries had stabilized, but he was unable to give an update on the other patients.

DeYoung initially said eight patients being treated in the ER before the crash would be sent to other facilities, although they were not injured in the incident. An ATCEMS representative clarified on Wednesday that only five additional patients were ultimately transported to St. David's Round Rock.

“They're being moved just to allow us to decompress the emergency department,” DeYoung said Tuesday.

DeYoung said the crash caused damage to the outside doors of the building, as well as a large fish aquarium inside the ER lobby, but that otherwise the facility appeared to be in good condition. On Wednesday, he said the aquarium may have protected the facility by absorbing much of the crash's impact.

DeYoung also praised members of the hospital's staff who jumped into action during the crisis, calling them "superheroes."

"People descended from all parts of the hospital to rally together and to jump into what was a very unknown and dangerous situation," he said. "We had three team members that when the vehicle entered into the lobby, it was in drive and running, and they put their life in harm's way and stopped the car from running and did their best to preserve life for the driver."

DeYoung said three staff members at St. David's North had minor injuries.

The ER was closed to ambulances Tuesday night but continued to accept walk-ins. As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, the facility resumed accepting EMS transports.

Operations in other areas of the hospital were not affected. However, the hospital's North entrance is temporarily closed, and staff and patients are asked to enter through an alternate entrance. Patients who are arriving for surgery should use the hospital's West entrance, DeYoung said.

Andrea Malloy, a KUT employee, was on the fourth floor visiting her mother when the crash occurred. About an hour after she arrived, she said smoke alarms began sounding. Nurses alerted Malloy and other visitors that they were entering lockdown due to an unfolding incident.

It wasn't until Malloy and her mother turned on the TV at 7 p.m. that they knew what happened.

"There was news coverage about the incident, and we could see what was actually happening downstairs, four floors beneath us," she said. "Then the smells started to make sense — like the smell of tires, sort of like the smell of the aftermath of a car crash."

Malloy said she was allowed to leave around 8 p.m. When she exited through the atrium, she could see into the ER lobby.

"It did look like an explosion happened. The floor was all wet," she said. "I could tell a vehicle was lodged into the wall area. Chairs were everywhere. Medical equipment was everywhere. Glass was everywhere."

Malloy complimented the nurses working on the fourth floor for keeping things calm.

"It was remarkable that they all just like kept their heads about them," she said. "They made us feel like, 'Oh, it's no big deal. We've just got to do some cleanup downstairs.'"

Olivia Aldridge is KUT's health care reporter. Got a tip? Email her at oaldridge@kut.org. Follow her on X @ojaldridge.