Exercise tests response to disasterA Blue Cloud Airlines Saab 340, with 34 passengers and three crew members aboard, “crash landed” at Jamestown Regional Airlines Monday night, killing four.
A Blue Cloud Airlines Saab 340, with 34 passengers and three crew members aboard, “crash landed” at Jamestown Regional Airlines Monday night, killing four.
Airport Manager Andy Schneider said the airplane didn’t report any problem as it approached at 6:30 p.m. However, airport personnel observed a problem with the landing gear as the plane neared the runway. As it landed the plane skidded off the runway and burst into flame.
Fortunately, the event wasn’t real but an exercise to practice the airport’s and hospital’s plans for handling an emergency situation. The county tested its incident command center, PIO and emergency operations center as well as use of identification badges.
Within minutes of the “crash,” the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting vehicle was flooding the plane with water to douse fire and smoke. Meanwhile, the 911 call at 6:37 p.m. brought Jamestown Fire and Police departments, sheriff and North Dakota Highway Patrol. Jamestown Ambulance was on the way. As the first responders to reach the scene the firefighters began checking victims for injuries. Paramedics took over on their arrival.
When the information became available, Public Information Officer Todd Volk, who is also the assistant emergency manager for Stutsman County, said eight passengers, the pilot and co-pilot were transported to Jamestown Hospital. For the other crash “victims,” the injuries were not serious.
“The four dead were passengers,” Volk said. “The co-pilot was badly injured and the pilot complained of chest pain.”
The site was treated as an active crime scene so only authorized personnel were allowed. The National Transportation Safety Board was called. Schneider said NTSB would investigate the crash.
Set up near the incident command center, the Salvation Army and James Valley Red Cross were providing whatever was needed by victims or emergency responders.
“We’re making sure everyone here is being taken care of,” said Fran Geisler of the Salvation Army as she handed water, sandwiches and oranges to responders taking a break in the heat. Volunteers put together sippy cups of water for “victims” who couldn’t drink easily. Baby food and supplies were on hand if needed.
Dave Smette of the Red Cross said incident command, with Fire Chief Jim Reuther in charge, ordered a family support center. It was set up at Jamestown High School to provide information as well as mental, emotional and spiritual support to the victims’ families.
“The situation is serious and we want to make sure families get accurate information,” Smette said.
Lt. Theresa Brecto, who heads up the Salvation Army in Jamestown, said she and her people would be at the site and at the high school to provide support.
Instead of the hours this would take in reality, the exercise happened within a two-hour span. It tested and trained emergency responders, law enforcement and medical personnel. The victims, some of whom were loud in their lamentations, were all playing roles. And the airplane was actually a school bus.
Representatives from all the participating agencies met after the exercise to discuss what went right and what went wrong in the exercise. A report is expected.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com