About 11:45 on Boomershoot Sunday I heard Barron call out over the radio, “Bill Waites, are you on the radio?” I knew that Bill had left for the day and answered back telling Barron that Bill wasn’t there. Barron answered back that they could use my help in his camping trailer. I told him I would be right there. I was in the car with Barb and had just finished eating lunch. As I was opening the door I started to express my wonderment at what was going on when things clicked into place. Bill is a physicians assistant. Barron must be dealing with a medical situation. I told Barb Bill’s day job so she could put it together too and ran to the trailer. My first thought was Barron’s father-in-law who has had problems with his heart over the years and has a tendency to overexert himself despite the objections of his family and doctor. But as I approached the trailer door the FIL was standing outside the door with a concerned look on his face but in no apparent distress. I opened the door and stuck my head inside.
One of the Boomershoot participants was standing there and reported that a bullet had fragmented in the compensator (muzzle brake) and a fragment came back and hit him in the leg and it was under the skin. I said, “Let’s call 911 and get you out of here then.” He insisted it wasn’t that big of a deal and didn’t really want an ambulance. I said okay, but we have an EMT (actually an emergency room nurse, but my mind couldn’t find the proper words right then) on site with their emergency kit and I would get him. I ran to get Peter. Peter ran to his car to get his kit and then to Barron’s trailer.
I couldn’t think of anything more for me to do and I went back to the car to sit with Barb and update her. A minute or two later Barron radioed me again, “Get an aid car.” I called 911 at 11:53 and told them what I knew. Someone, I didn’t know his name, had a bullet fragment in his leg from a bullet coming apart in the compensator (as the patient had described it) and coming backward and penetrating his leg. I had an EMT with him and they had requested an ambulance. The dispatcher didn’t understand all the subtleties and concluded someone had been shot. And she wanted to know if he was breathing. I corrected her saying it was a bullet fragment from an accident and that the patient was standing, talking to me, and insisting they didn’t need an ambulance a few minutes earlier and I had not heard any updates other than the EMT (as my addled brain struggled and failed to remember Peter’s job title) other than they now wanted an ambulance. I thought it was the patient shooting his own gun and told them this, but I found out later the patient was actually the spotter. The dispatcher wanted to know the caliber and all I knew was that it was a rifle. The dispatcher said it probably would be about 30 minutes before they made it to our site.
I updated Barron with the ETA on the radio and gave Barb a few more details. Barron, at some point, asked for a couple of the 18” surveyors stakes we used for mounting targets on. They wanted to use a couple for a splint. I ran a full bundle of 25 over to the trailer.
Then at 12:00 noon I called the noon cease fire for everyone. I told my staff what was going on and directed them to do the usual target inspection and resets while I waited at the end of the driveway for the ambulance to arrive so I could direct them to the trailer. Brother Doug called and said he heard we had a medical emergency and that the sheriff deputies were unsure about what they were getting into. He said I should call them and clarify the situation for them. I called the sheriff’s office directly. I told the woman who answered I understood there were some questions about what was going on. She said yes and I explained that the patient hadn’t really been shot. It was clearly an accident and that it wasn’t a direct gunshot wound it was a bullet fragment that came back from the muzzle brake (I started using muzzle brake rather than “compensator” in the hope it would sink into them what happened). She seemed to understand and asked about the EMT on site. What was their name? Was it someone from Clearwater County? I told her it Peter V., an emergency room nurse who used to work at Gritman in Moscow. But that I thought he is now working someplace in or near Spokane. With those things clarified she said she would update the deputies.
Here is the view I had while waiting:
Barron’s white trailer is about 275 yards away at the top edge of the picture about three fourths of the way from the left side of the picture.
A sheriff’s vehicle arrived about 12:20 with two deputies and I directed them to the trailer. They confirmed with me it was an accident not an intentional shooting, and again I, erroneously, told them I thought it was the patient’s own gun.
The ambulance arrived about 12:30, I directed them to the trailer, then I walked back to the shooting area to wait for word on the status of the patient. The deputies left a few minutes later and probably after 10 minutes the patient was loaded up and the ambulance took him to the hospital in Orofino. Barron, Peter, and Jennifer B. came out of the trailer and were talking so I approached and listened for a while. It became clear that Jennifer, new to Boomershoot but not new to long range shooting, had medical training and her medical kit with her as well and had helped patch up the patient.
Peter caught on that I wanted to say something and interrupted the conversation to give me a chance. I told them that I actually wanted to listen, but I wanted to hear what exactly happened and what the status was. The patient was spotting for the shooter and sitting a little to one side when there was a bullet strike on the muzzle brake of the gun. A fragment came back and struck the patient on the anterior thigh about midway between the knee and hip. There was some bleeding but nothing to indicate significant concern in regards to blood loss at the moment. Neurologically everything looked fine. They were concerned because they didn’t know where the fragment(s) were. Bullet fragments are sharp and if one was next to an artery physical movement could cause a nick and a life threatening situation where seconds mattered. The patient needed an X-Ray and probably a surgeon. They immobilized the leg to prevent movement and shipped him to the hospital for appropriate evaluation and care. Probably he would be fine, but, “You just don’t know for sure.”
That evening Barb and I talked to Brother Doug. He asked, “How many deputies showed up?” He was out dog training for search and rescue when one of the other trainers heard the radio chatter on the sheriff’s band about the incident. The report the sheriff’s department got was unclear as to what was happening and the deputies concluded they had better take backup. Doug then ran back to the house to call me, find out what was happening, and to let me know I should get things straightened out before we were surrounded by deputies with the wrong impression.
I talked to the patient today and he was near Boise (I think he lives in the Seattle area) doing some more shooting. He has a bruise about four inches long and bullet fragments which are about 1.25” to 1.5” inches under the skin. I don’t know the size of any of them. The doctor decided to leave them in his leg. They tried to remove one closer to the surface via irrigation but were unsuccessful. Everything is going to be fine.
I’m glad I have been giving Peter a free shooting position every year for the last eight or ten years. That was a very good suggestion by my ex-wife who was a co-worker of Peter’s at Gritman.
Barb said that when Peter checked in this year he was expressed some guilt that he shoots for free every year and has never done anything in return. He earned it this year. I told Jennifer she can shoot for free next year if she brings her medical kit. Bill Waites is part of the Precision Rifle Clinic staff and already shoots for free. More medical staff could come in handy in various situations.
I usually announce at the shooters meeting that we have medical staff onsite. I didn’t do that this time. I’ve added it to my shooters meetings notes. The patient, or someone close by, should have told a nearby range officer to radio for help rather than walking probably 175 yards to get help.
Medical staff should have had a radio. It probably took an extra two or three minutes from the time Barron got my attention until Peter was with the patient. Had Peter been in radio communication he could have cut that time at least in half if not a third.