MidState Medical Center in Meriden increased security as a precaution after a driver intentionally crashed a car filled with gasoline containers into the Middlesex Hospital emergency room Thursday morning.
Hartford HealthCare spokesman Shawn Mawhiney said Jersey barriers were put up outside the Meriden hospital as a precautionary measure. There was no direct threat to the hospital at 435 Lewis Ave., he said.
MidState is part of the Hartford HealthCare system, which also increased security at its other facilities in Connecticut.
“It appears to be an isolated incident (at Middlesex Hospital), but we just want MidState to be as safe as possible for our patients and staff,” Mawhiney said.
Middlesex Hospital, in Middletown, is not part of Hartford HealthCare.
Mawhiney said Middlesex Hospital’s emergency room diverted patients to MidState Medical Center, the Southington and New Britain campuses of the Hospital of Central Connecticut, and Hartford Hospital.
“Similar to other events that take place elsewhere (in the state, across the country), you want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to keep your community safe,” Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati said. “You can never be too cautionary or too safe when things of this magnitude happen.”
“This was a terrible tragedy, and one that will be investigated, and hopefully we can move forward in a positive direction for the betterment of not only the hospital that was impacted, but all hospitals across our state,” Scarpati said.
David Lowell, a Meriden city councilor and Hunter’s Ambulance executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the ambulance service responded to Middlesex Hospital shortly after the incident occurred.
“We staged several ambulances within a safe area,” Lowell said.
Hunter’s Ambulance serves Middletown in addition to Meriden.
Lowell praised the response of the Middletown fire department.
“Thankfully, there were not multiple casualties,” Lowell said. “The hospital moved patients to a place that was not affected.”
The fire department and hospital administrators are reviewing structural, smoke and water, damage and necessary repairs in the event they need to relocate additional patients.
“We are supporting efforts now as they assess the need to move patients to alternative hospitals,” Lowell said.
Southington police Sgt. Jeffrey Dobratz said officers conducted extra patrol checks at the Bradley Memorial campus of the Hospital of Central Connecticut after authorities learned of the incident.
The Middlesex Hospital crash occurred about 10 a.m. Thursday. The front of the car became engulfed in flames and the driver was on fire when he exited the vehicle, police said.
The driver, a local man in his 20s known to police, was the only person injured. He was flown about 40 miles to Bridgeport Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition in the burn unit.
“The bomb squads were there, but that was out of an abundance of caution, not because we had any information that anything was wired or connected,” said Middletown Mayor Dan Drew. “In a situation like this, it’s incumbent on us to make sure every contingency is explored.”
Drew said authorities believe it was an isolated incident. When asked if terrorism was a possibility, Middletown Police Chief William McKenna would only say that the man’s motives are under investigation.
About 30 patients and 20 staff members were evacuated from the emergency department after the crash.
Fire, police and bomb crews quickly responded to the scene and firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze.
Authorities evacuated homes in the neighborhood where the driver lives while searching his residence, but had no immediate indication there was a bomb in either location.
“This situation, as tragic as it is, as difficult as it is for our community to contend with, had very limited overall damage, in part because of the quick response of hospital staff, police officers and firefighters,” Drew said.
Middlesex Hospital announced Thursday afternoon that the emergency department would remain closed until further notice. All outpatient services were suspended and non-emergency surgeries were canceled for Friday.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.