Airplane crash drill tests rescue workers

Drill held Tuesday morning at Northeast Florida Regional Airport


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – St. Johns County Fire Rescue joined the Northeast Florida Regional Airport, the St. Augustine-St. Johns County Airport Authority and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office in a joint airport rescue drill Tuesday morning at the Northeast Florida Regional Airport in St. Augustine. 

The Sheriff''s Office said first responders were faced with an aircraft crash scenario, described as a commercial aircraft carrying multiple passengers that crashed during an emergency landing.

Organizers tried to make the drill as real as possible right from the start. The initial call for help came in to the 911 dispatch center, which then notified the on-duty fire and airport officials.

First responders treated it as if it were a real incident, encountering multiple patients with traumatic injuries, fire and smoke. Even though it was just a drill, it evoked the same emotions from the first responders, who were charged with locating and treating survivors and ensuring that the scene was safe.

"It's a real exercise that brings all these resources together and allows them to assimilate something that doesn't normally occur -- an aircraft emergency," said Ed Wuellner, executive director of the St. Augustine-St. Johns County Airport Authority. 

Wuellner said they are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct disaster response drills every three years.

The drill challenged first responders from multiple agencies to communicate with one another while their adrenaline was pumping.

"We put a lot of time into the planning. And we want it to be as real as possible, so we can truly gauge our emergency plans when you put it into practice," SJCFR spokesman Jeremy Robshaw said.

Organizers threw in unexpected challenges that could happen in real life.

"Today's scenario was that we had a prisoner transport, and that kind of helped perk everybody up to figure out who the prisoner was that was being transported, as well as who was the law enforcement officer doing the escort," Wuellner said. 

Firefighters said the drill was a success. 

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