By Nancy A. Youssef and Suliman Ali Zway, McClatchy Newspapers –
BENGHAZI, Libya — An alarm rang around 1 a.m. Wednesday, alerting Libyan emergency room doctor Ziad Bouzaid, 31, that an important patient was en route to Benghazi Medical Center.
Bouzaid, who was working a 24-hour shift, had already seen 10 Libyans come in that evening with various injuries, all saying they had been under attack. In a city inundated with armed militiamen vying for power, rumors were swirling in the emergency room about who was attacking whom.
This time, however, the Libyans who arrived were carrying Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
He’s a diplomat, someone said. As Bouzaid began attempting to resuscitate him, he looked at the man’s face and recognized the popular ambassador immediately.
“I had seen photos of him on Facebook,” Bouzaid said.
Stevens’ lips were covered with a black substance and his body was “reeking of smoke.”
“There was no sign of life. There was nothing,” Bouzaid said.
Stevens was killed Tuesday along with three other Americans in a brazen attack on their consulate compound in Benghazi, the birthplace of the revolution last year that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi.
Stevens, who had been based in Benghazi throughout the revolt and became the ambassador to Libya in May, had traveled from Tripoli, where a unit of Marines protects the U.S. Embassy, to the less-guarded Benghazi consulate to open a Libyan-American cultural center, a Libyan legislator told a local television station.
Witnesses told McClatchy Newspapers that the assault on the consulate compound Tuesday lasted for hours. The attackers, carrying the flag of the Islamist militant group Ansar al-Shariah, launched rocket-propelled grenades, setting the building ablaze.
Details of what took place next are still being sorted out. Ansar al-Shariah denied responsibility for the attack. The FBI has dispatched agents to Libya to investigate.
What seems clear is the medical aid Stevens received.
Just after midnight Wednesday, Libyan security forces dragged Stevens’ body out of the compound and sped off to the hospital.
Though Stevens appeared lifeless, Bouzaid said, he spent the next 45 minutes trying to revive the ambassador.
The doctor said his initial assessment was that Stevens had suffered from suffocation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Patients can survive carbon monoxide levels below 60 percent.
As Bouzaid kept trying to revive the ambassador, Stevens’ body only reaffirmed what the doctor already knew: Blood poured from his nose and mouth. “That happens in cases of severe poisoning,” Bouzaid said. Stevens’ carbon monoxide levels were above 60 percent.
“After we were 100 percent sure he was dead, I did my report and the diplomat went to the morgue,” he said.
It was 1:45 a.m. By 6 a.m., U.S. officials recovered Stevens’ body, Bouzaid said.
The ambassador was the only American to arrive in Bouzaid’s emergency room that night, though three others were killed in the attack.
“We tried,” the doctor said.