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Training for Yuma 'BORSTAR' unit turns to real-life emergency
A planned training exercise for Border Patrol agents from Yuma Sector's Search, Trauma and Rescue Team (BORSTAR) unit ended before it ever started, when a sand rail carrying two adults and two children crashed in front of them last Tuesday.
According to agent K. Linwood Estes of the Yuma Sector Public Affairs Office, the BORSTAR unit was in the Imperial Sand Dunes on Tuesday to conduct some emergency response training in preparation for the upcoming four-day Thanksgiving holiday.
Estes said the training quickly ended, however, when the driver of an orange sand rail lost control of his vehicle and rolled it several times before it stopped upside-down – directly in front of the 20-plus Border Patrol EMTs. It then caught fire with its four occupants still hanging from their restraints.
“The agents were out there getting ready for the actual holiday weekend when this sand rails goes by where they are and flips,” Estes said.
Two of the occupants, Estes said, were 9-year-old children.
The BORSTAR agents immediately sprang into action, extinguishing the fire, treating the victims and then transporting them to an ambulance waiting on the highway.
Estes said BORSTAR units are stationed throughout the dunes to ensure that medical assistance is available when injuries occur. Approximately 25 agents were on duty this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
During the Thanksgiving holiday, typically more than 140,000 people visit the sand dunes. Every year, dozens of individuals need emergency medical assistance when the fun turns to injury. This year was no different.
“On average, we respond to about 85 incidents during the Thanksgiving four-day weekend,” said Border Patrol Agent Tyler Emblem, a BORSTAR member.
In a vast area where ambulances can't travel, the BORSTAR unit can reach victims whose emergency medical needs would otherwise be greatly delayed. According to Emblem, more than 80 percent of the incidents will be trauma related.
As for the public's response to BORSTAR's presence in the dunes, Emblem says he mostly hears, “We are glad you guys are here!”
All BORSTAR agents are, at minimum, certified emergency medical technicians; some having advanced medical training. In addition, the agents receive extensive training in land navigation and wilderness rescue.
Most Border Patrol agents who are assigned to the dunes work out of the Border Patrol's Yuma Sector. The Border Patrol has extended its training to other agents as well, such as EMTs, who are not assigned to the search and rescue teams and normally are out patrolling the border or manning highway checkpoints.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.