Suburban Doctor Watched Stage Collapse, Rushed to Help

By Andrew Greiner
|  Monday, Aug 15, 2011  |  Updated 4:18 PM CDT
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Dr. Dean Silas of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital talks about the pure chaos that ensued following a stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair.

Dr. Dean Silas of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital talks about the pure chaos that ensued following a stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair.

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Dr. Dean Silas hasn't worked in an emergency room for more than 20 years.

But the gastroenterologist from Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, found himself in the middle of an emergency Saturday when a wind gust knocked over a stage at the Indiana State Fair, killing five and injuring more than 40 others.

"I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that, me personally," Silas said Monday recounting his tale to reporters. "You could see the stage collapse almost in slow motion. ... You knew of course that it was going to fall on people."

Fall it did.

Silas watched the terror unfold from the grand stand, where he was sitting with his wife and daughter. His daughter took a video of the collapse, and Silas took off for the grounds where people were injured to see if he could help. 

"Once I was there it was pure chaos," he said.

There was a mass of metal and humongous speakers that fell on these people.

"I saw a couple of people who were fatally injured," he said. "A couple of people with leg injuries, a young woman with muscular contusions on her back, another woman with injuries I couldn't ascertain and one woman who were were adminstering CPR to."

One of the fatally injured turned out to be Chicago based health care worker Christine Santiago, from the Howard Brown Health Center. Friends and family held a vigil for her last night.

Silas was able to help save a number of individuals who remained near the stage despite warnings of impending storms.

He and other spectators, many of whom turned out to be physicians or trained in first aid, pulled injured from the wreckage and loaded them onto makeshift pallets. They then transported them to an improptu triage area where late-arriving first aid workers were delivering care and taking individuals to the hospital.

"No one expected this," Silas said. "We all expected a thunderstorm. What happend was the collapse.

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