A leisurely drive to a conference turned harrowing in an
instant for a UC College of Medicine
department chair and his wife when they came upon a tragic bus wreck that
took the lives of eight people and injured 14 others. With quick action, both
were able to help victims and the emergency responders who rushed to the scene.
Fred Lucas, MD, chair of the department of pathology and
laboratory medicine and MacKenzie Chair of Pathology, and medical director of
anatomic and clinical pathology at UC Health University of Cincinnati Medical
Center, and his wife, Johna Lucas, MD, were traveling on Interstate 40 in
Tennessee Wednesday. They were headed to a regional conference of the
Association of Pathology Chairs in Asheville, N.C. , when they came upon the
accident site near I-40’s split with I-81 involving a church bus, a
tractor-trailer and an SUV.
Lucas, reached by telephone Thursday, says he estimates he
and his wife came upon the scene just after the accident occurred. Johna Lucas
called 911 and provided the operator with details from the scene; emergency
responders arrived shortly thereafter.
"We didn’t see it exactly as it happened, but we got there within
minutes by my estimate,” Lucas said. "We came around a corner and saw the big
black cloud of smoke.
"We just jumped in—an enormous fire had engulfed the entire
cab of the tractor-trailer.”
Lucas said that at that point, medical training and the
instinct to help kicked in for him and his wife. He pulled a dead woman away
from the fire and also pulled away another woman who later died before his
"There were no supplies at first, so there was not much we
could do other than get people away from the fire and help them be as comfortable
as possible,” he said.
Once emergency responders arrived, the Lucases helped place
survivors on boards for transport to area hospitals.
Lucas commended the work of the first responders, noting
that he has seen the work of emergency department clinicians and staff at UC
Medical Center and knows how much skill and expertise is involved.
As for his role Wednesday, Lucas—who described himself as a
"behind-the-scenes guy” in his work as a pathologist studying the nature of
disease and its causes—was modest.
"All we did was help; there was no more to it than that,” he