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Fake plane crash trains crews for real emergency

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

MADISON COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - A plane sat in pieces just off the runway at the Madison County Airport, near Berea, yet the victims had to be walked out to the plane and told to lie down. That's because this plane crash was not real, but just a drill for the area emergency crews.

"We've got about six or eight aviation students that have been painted up (to look injured)," described Jason Bonham, the Operations Manager at the airport.

The volunteers were given fake injuries that looked life-like. Shards of glass sticking out from all parts of the body, and some were made to look like they were bleeding or even burned. The participants were then told how to act, whether they're injuries were superficial, life-threatening, or even deadly.

"This is kind of new, it's exciting for everyone, we've never done it so there is that fear factor, but there's also that excitement of 'Hey, let's see how we can do with this," added Carl Richards, the Madison County Emergency Management Director.

This is the first time a test, like this, has been practiced in the county. Bonham, who also works for Eastern Kentucky University, says the school took over the airfield roughly a year ago. Since that time, air traffic has increased and that raised the need for being disaster ready.

Richards agreed. "We've got some new plans, disaster response plans, and I want to see if they work. They look great on paper, (so) today's a test for everyone."

Many agencies took part in the drill, and many more stood by watching closely on how the response worked. Among the crowd watching, was a few firefighters from the Bluegrass Airport, who brought the staged plane. One of the firefighters was one of the responders to Flight 5191, a deadly plane crash in Lexington.

The storyline at play was a plane loaded with passengers took off and had to turn around because of equipment failure, but the plane didn't make it and crashed to the ground.

Richards made a call to 9-1-1 and gave the type of information that an operator might receive in a similar situation, then they waited.

The first responder, a Berea police officer, pulled up within minutes. Once on scene, the officer found a gate locked, a plane smoking, and the injured shouting for help. Moments after the first fire and EMS truck arrived. The crew was able to "cut" the lock to the gate to get inside. Then the real elements came into play.

Crews went to work setting up a command post, a center to treat the minor injuries, and the rest of the firefighters spread out checking on the injured, assessing their injuries, and seeking the worst of the worst first.

While everything was designed to look as real as possible, the emergency crews hope this is something they never see again in real life.

"That would be the dream to be good at it but never have to do it for real," stated Richards.

Still, Richards and others kept a close watch on the time and the response, learning and studying what would be the best. While it was fake, they took it as serious as possible.

"If this ever does happen then it will save somebody's life," explained Bonham.

One consultant said he hoped to see other small airports around the state go through the same training to be ready.

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