Katie Kineally came to Las Vegas with her family to celebrate her mother’s 90th birthday.
During her vacation, a sight-seeing tour to the Grand Canyon turned into a rescue mission after a violent helicopter crash.
“There were people screaming. We just heard these inhuman screams of pain,” Kineally recalled.
On Saturday, the nurse anesthetist was on her own helicopter tour which was stopped near Quartermaster Canyon when the serenity of the wilderness was interrupted.
“As soon as we got to the edge of the cliff, we could just see the smoke billowing up,” Kineally said.
Another tour helicopter crashed. Instinctively, Kineally slid down the rocky, rugged terrain and ran towards the fiery wreckage.
“The other gentleman was just screaming. It was echoing throughout the canyon. It was just horrific,” Kineally said.
Witnesses from the cliff above started throwing down clothing so Kineally could keep the victims warm as she worked side by side with first responders, administering IVs to help prevent shock as the sunlight disappeared and temperatures dropped.
“I had an EMT standing over with a flashlight because I couldn’t see anything, and I did it mostly by feel because she needed more fluid, she was getting really shocky,” Kineally explained.
In the darkened distance, rescue teams were working out a plan to reach the survivors. Time was the enemy as the pain medication ran out.
“They were so brave because there were times when we had to say, ‘we don’t have any more pain medication right now. We’re going to just have to have you focus and breathe for me, breath for me, hold my hand, keep talking to me,’ and you know, that was probably the hardest part,” Kineally said.
And then a heartbreaking question came from the woman she was treating.
“Her significant other was one of the men that were not able to make it out. She just kept screaming his name over and over, wanting to know what happened,” Kineally said.
Kineally compassionately kept the woman focused. She provided treatment for nine hours until all the patients were airlifted out of the canyon and to the hospital.
She was just the right nurse in the right place when a sightseeing tour went wrong.
“What amazed me is no matter how bad things are in the world, people still come together in a tragedy,” Kineally added.
Kineally said she used her years of training as a nurse to help those in need. She also commended all the other witnesses who jumped in to help.