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Sen. Frist Visits Fla. Car Crash Victims

January 3, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Doctors awaited a family member’s decision on whether to remove life support from a 20-year-old victim of a rollover crash in which two other relatives died _ and U.S. Sen. Bill Frist stopped to help.

Shadia Rene, the half-sister of two children who died from injuries sustained in the rollover Wednesday, was being kept alive at Broward General Medical Center so her organs may be made available for donation to others, hospital spokeswoman Jenny Pudwell said.

An aunt is scheduled to arrive at the hospital Friday to decide on continued life support, Pudwell said.

Police said an 11-year-old girl, Felicienne Kali, died at the scene. Her 14-year-old brother, Felix Kali, died Thursday at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. The dead children’s mother, Stella Kali, 41, was in critical condition Friday morning.

The father, Jocelyn Kali, 40; and family friend Meme Chery, 33, were in fair condition.

All of them are from Tampa.

Frist, the incoming Senate majority leader who was a leading transplant surgeon before retiring to pursue his political career, was among those who stopped at the scene of the accident to offer assistance. Frist’s medical expertise was invaluable in the rescue effort, officials said.

Frist visited the crash victims at the hospital on Thursday, but said he would not comment about the visit ``out of deference to the family.″

John Mingo, Stella Kali’s brother, said Frist delivered a message to the family from President Bush.

``He told us the President sent his regards and would say a prayer for us,″ Mingo said.

Paramedic Capt. Jeff Andrews said Frist’s assistance helped give Stella Kali a chance at surviving the accident.

``She had a very difficult airway to manage,″ he said, with a lot of blood and other fluid making it hard for her to breathe. The senator, along with two other bystanders, a nurse and an off-duty paramedic, helped open her airway and suction it out, he said.

Frist was about 35 miles from Miami and heading east to a family vacation home when the Isuzu Rodeo going in the same direction rolled over after one of its rear tires blew out.

The tire was a Firestone Wilderness AT, a brand which was partially recalled after it was found to be used on many SUVs involved in rollover accidents, said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. John Bagnardi. But the model of tire on the Isuzu was not among the recalled batch, Bagnardi said.

A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Frist is a heart surgeon who founded Vanderbilt University’s organ transplant center. He keeps a white doctor’s coat in his car and dispensed medical advice during the anthrax scare on Capitol Hill.

Lara Spalding, 25, a nursing student at Belmont University in Nashville, was at the crash scene and tried to assist the rescue effort. She noticed the word ``Frist″ on the doctor’s jacket and introduced herself as being from Tennessee, without realizing who the doctor was.

``All I realized was we had a doctor there,″ Spalding said.

Frist offered medical assistance to Strom Thurmond when the then-98-year-old senator collapsed on the Senate floor in 2001, and in 1998 rushed to aid victims of a gunman who opened fire in the U.S. Capitol.

In 1995, Frist revived a 60-year-old man who collapsed inside a Senate office building.

``As a doctor, my first instincts are to help,″ Frist said in a statement after the crash.

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