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N.Y. first responders train for plane crash MCI

The Ogdensburg International Airport was the location for training a simulated plane crash and fire


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By Andy Gardner
Watertown Daily Times

OGDENSBURG, N.Y. — More than a dozen police, fire and rescue agencies practiced for the worst at Ogdensburg International Airport with a simulated jet crash exercise late Wednesday night.

Using an actual Contour Air jet as a sort of crash prop, the scenario was: The plane filled to capacity had landing-gear issues, belly-landed on the runway, resulting in numerous injuries and causing a fuel leak along with a serious engine malfunction. More than 50 volunteers portrayed crash victims, including adults, college students and high school students.

“We’re required to do this every three years,” said Airport Manager Charlie Garrelts. He said the Ogdensburg airport has a higher risk index because of the jets flying in and out, which use highly volatile fuel.

The mock victims were done up in makeup to simulate various injuries. Some of those were mild cuts or scrapes. One person was done up to have a dismembered arm.

There were about 10 “victims” placed on the runway, to simulate passengers who got up and left the plane before rescuers arrived. Once firefighters and ambulances arrived, the actors outside of the jet started screaming loudly for help and didn’t stop until they were attended to. A smoke machine was used to make it appear that an engine was emitting heavy smoke.

Fire and rescue agencies were dispatched and responded to the scene from their actual stations around the county, so they had staggered arrivals. When the first fire trucks arrived from nearby Ogdensburg and Heuvelton, the practice area was pitch dark. The first thing that happened is a fire truck began spraying down an area where fuel may leak. For the exercise they used water. In a real crash scenario, they’d be spraying a thick foam designed to stop the fuel from igniting. After that, a second fire truck set up light towers.

Next, the firefighters boarded the jet on the port side using an emergency ramp and removed passengers who were conscious and able to walk. Meanwhile, on the starboard side, a ladder truck became an emergency ramp so firefighters could remove passengers on that side. Each side of the jet became its own triage area.

Although the firefighters and EMTs were moving as quickly as they could, it’s not an instant process. The most seriously injured passengers had to be stabilized, brought onto a stretcher and were removed by ambulance about 25 or so minutes after the first one arrived.

That’s around when ambulances from the farther squads started rolling in, including Waddington and Hammond.

Also around that time, a Lifenet helicopter flew in, and soldiers from Fort Drum flew in a Blackhawk UH-60 medical helicopter. The total time between the initial dispatch and the Blackhawk landing at the end of the drill was just under one hour.

“I think it went great,” Garrelts said. “Thirty minutes for first responders to clear the plane is a really great number.”

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