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Colo. ER doc: 'Oh, my heart sank'

A Colorado emergency department doctor awakened at 1 a.m. to treat victims of Friday’s theater shooting said the first call was a terrible reminder of another local tragedy.

“I was a physician on the scene at Columbine,” said Dr. Christopher Colwell, director of emergency medicine at Denver Health. “When I realized what was happening, oh, my heart sank.”

Colwell’s hospital saw eight patients hurt early Friday, all adults ages 18 to 44, including six initially and two who transferred later. All were treated for gunshot wounds including those inflicted by shotgun pellets and high-caliber weapon bullets.

“One woman was shot directly with a bullet wound to her knee,” Colwell said. “Others had injuries in the chest, abdomen and extremities.”

Police said 12 people were killed and 58 were injured when accused shooter James Eagan Holmes, 24, of Aurora, opened fire at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" at a theater in Aurora, a suburb of Denver.

Victims were taken to a half-dozen local hospitals for treatment. 

Fifteen of those patients were taken to the Medical Center of Aurora, where Dr. Frank Lansville was also awakened at 1 a.m. and then rushed to help colleagues on the night shift.

“Within 18 minutes we were in full operation,” he said.

Twelve of those victims suffered blasts from high-caliber weapons, Lansville said, adding that seven were admitted, including five in critical condition. Three victims were treated for chemical exposure to some kind of gas and released.

At Denver Health, the patients were all conscious, Colwell said.

“They were overwhelmed, still trying to grasp what had happened,” he said.

The initial call indicated that there were children and teenagers involved in the massacre, which also sparked memories of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting that killed 15 people and injured 21.

“You feel your stomach go in knots,” Colwell said.

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