Just A Drill: First Responders Prepare For Plane Crash At Gainesville Airport


“We have 103 souls on board,” a first responder says into his radio.

Emergency responders then spring into action, running about the field to treat the wounded.

Some of them are dead, but others are alive, their shirts bloodied and cuts on their heads and legs.

All are separated into four different areas depending on their wounds: the green area if they’re walking, yellow for a moderate injury like a broken arm, red for life-threatening injuries, and black for dead.

But no one was really hurt or deceased (the dead were actually dummies) at the Gainesville Regional Airport on Tuesday, as first responders from around the county firefighters, police and emergency medical technicians  practiced what to do in case of a plane crash.

“Teamwork is everything in an event such as this,” Gainesville police spokesman Ben Tobias said of the collaborative effort.

The drill  conducted once every three years  simulates a full-scale plane crash using real people who volunteer and fake injuries and real emergency medical techniques.

The drill is practice for a “mass-casualty incident” involving more than 100 patients, said Michael Cowart, Gainesville Fire Rescue’s operational chief.

“In a scenario like this, with over 100 patients, it’s going to involve efforts from the Gainesville Police Department, Alachua Sheriff’s Department, Gainesville Fire Rescue, Alachua County Fire Rescue, and the coroner’s office,” he explained.

There hasn’t been any plane crashes at Gainesville’s airport in the past couple years, but there has been before.

In 2006, three people were killed in a plane crash at the airport, and in 2011, one person was injured in another, according to reports by the Gainesville Sun.

The MSU17 waits patients as first responders run to the scene
Firefighters head toward the fake plane crash Tuesday at the Gainesville Regional Airport. Behind them is the MSU17 bus, a new Alachua County Fire Rescue emergency-response vehicle. (Savanna Collins/WUFT News)

For Tuesday’s drill, Gainesville Fire Rescue utilized its new addition that wasn’t available for past drills and real crashes: a big red bus called MSU (Medical Support Unit) 17.

The bus is meant to take a large group of “yellow” (moderately injured) patients to the hospital together, allowing “red” (critical) patients to be taken immediately by ambulance.

Most of Tuesday’s volunteer victims are in training to become EMTs.

“I feel this is what I am called to do,” said James Cloutier, a volunteer and EMT student.

Tobias reiterated the importance of such trainings.

“We’re confident that should the worst happen to us in Gainesville,” he said, “we are going to be prepared.”

About Leah Shields

Leah is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

Check Also

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe V. Wade. Here’s what that means for Florida

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe V. Wade. The decision removes the federal right …