Ryan Starling acted as a first responder when the San Bernardino, California shooting happened at the Inland Regional Center last week.
The 33-year-old said in his first television interview since the ordeal, that it was “divine intervention” that he and his squad happened to be fully suited up and doing one of their twice-yearly active shooter training drills, when the calls from the center shooting came in.
The San Bernardino Firehouse paramedic and volunteer SWAT squad member, arrived at the chaotic scene filled with the scent of gunpowder and victims crying out for help within 10 minutes of receiving a distressing call, because of a police car standing by.
Starling told ABC News that the scene was horrific.
At the scene, Starling began systemically triaging patients -- 35 in total – using what was on his tactical vest - which is typically enough to treat one downed officer. He started putting white tape on the wrists of the deceased “so that I had my own indicator” and would not go back and re-check patients during the chaotic triaging process.
He didn’t have official triage tags on him at the time, but he improvised using tape from his medic bag that is typically used to hold IVs in place. He had sheriff deputies shadow him and haul bodies out of the conference room.
“They were dragging patients out as quick as I could triage them,” Starling told ABC.
Because authorities believed at the time there were up to three shooters “outstanding,” ambulances and other rescuers were barred from the immediate scene. So Starling and his cadre of deputies began loading the wounded into patrol cars and the flatbeds of pickups.
Astonishingly, all the wounded were with medical staff within 15 minutes of Starling’s arrival. And every one of them, including the 14 in critical condition, survived.
“I knew I had a job to do I knew that for some reason I was there that day at SWAT training and been able to respond,” Starling said. That day, he called the 16 fatalities and he was the medic that they put on the radio to pronounce the suspects.
“It didn’t really hit me until I went home and when I was with my family and could finally de-stress,” he said.