Burn victims, caregivers throughout Las Vegas valley reunite at UMC holiday event

Las Vegas man recalls surviving plane crash at UMC trauma, burn survivor luncheon 

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The ballroom at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip was full of survivors who went through the unthinkable to get there.

One of them was 29-year-old Hugo Betancourt who survived a plane crash back in September of 2019.

“I just remember after the crash waking up a little bit as if I was sleeping I saw fire around my instinct told me to run outside,” Betancourt said.

Betancourt and three of his friends took off from Henderson Airport on September 7th, 2019. However, mechanical issues caused their plane to go down and left Betancourt covered in jet fuel and flames.

Betancourt was rushed to UMC Trauma where he was in a medically induced coma for over five months. By the time he woke up, it was a whole new world.

“They tell me there is this thing outside it’s called COVID it’s going around,” he recalled.

Betancourt suffered burns to 95% of his body and had to stay at the UMC burn center for almost a year.

“Once I saw my reflection it was eye-opening, I thought I had just a few scratches on my head or something I didn’t know the extension of the burns until then,” Betancourt said.

Little did he know, it was just the beginning of his long road to recovery.

“I couldn’t close my eyes at one point when I was sleeping, I just couldn’t close them, but they helped me,” he said. “I’m told a big percentage of my skin was made in a laboratory.”

Betancourt made it a point to be present at the annual luncheon for UMC Trauma and Burn survivors to prove that with strength and support, it is possible to overcome the impossible.

“Aside from medical care from the wellness that I got from them it just gave me more reason to be alive. They made their part and I had to make my part too,” he said.

For Chief of Trauma, Dr. Deborah Kuls, the luncheon is a day she always looks forward to.

“We treat them when they are very acute when they first come in very injured,” she said. “This is what we live for, this is the best day ever.”

For Betancourt, the luncheon was a reminder he wasn’t alone.

“In the end, it’s just like a small family,” he said.

Two others died in that plane crash Betancourt was involved in. He and one of his friends survived.

UMC is home to Nevada’s only Level 1 trauma center and verified burn center, which provides the state’s highest level of care.

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