ST. GABRIEL, LA (WAFB) - When time is of the essence and every second counts, where an ambulance is coming from can mean the difference between life and death, so now, both banks of Iberville Parish have their own ambulances.
In June 2013, a unit at the William-Olefins plant in St. Gabriel exploded, killing two people and injuring more that 70. Within 45 minutes of the blast, there were 17 ambulances on scene, but it took nearly 20 minutes for the first to arrive because there was no ambulance service on the east bank of Iberville Parish. The closest ambulance was in Baton Rouge or across the river in Plaquemine.
The problem was fixed Wednesday, when officials cut the ribbon to their new Acadian Ambulance center for east Iberville Parish.
"It's good to have medical response here within a community to actually reduce the amount of time it takes to get a person to the emergency department once they call for 911," said Justin Cox, operations manager for Acadian Ambulance.
According to Cox, had Acadian been in east Iberville Parish at the time of the plant explosion, ambulances would have been on scene within 10 to 15 minutes.
Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi said the new center will be able to provide paramedics a place to eat, sleep and live since eight people will cover all shifts to man the ambulance 24 hours a day. Stassi added there are already three ambulances on the west side of Iberville Parish: one in Grosse Tete and two in Plaquemine. With this one now on the east bank, Stassi said the entire parish is covered.
"With the amount of petrochemical industry we have and east Iberville is growing leaps and bounds, this was the next logical step for the Acadian Ambulance," Stassi explained.
Along with the ambulance, a medical transport will stay on the east bank in Iberville Parish to transport patients with injuries not considered life-threatening to the hospital. Plus, Acadian has six helicopters stationed around the state. The closest one for St. Gabriel is on Pecue Lane in case it is needed.
"For too long, they've been the stepchild of the system and I'm happy to be able to bring this truck over here," Stassi added.
An ambulance tax in Iberville Parish that brings in about $2 million annually will help pay for the service on the east bank.