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Emergency officials stage fake plane crash

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Firefighters carry a person playing a victim in a plane crash simulation drill at Pitt-Greenville Airport on March 21, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Friday, March 22, 2019

Sirens wailed as fire trucks, ambulances and police cars sped down the runway at Pitt-Greenville Airport on Thursday night, headed toward rising smoke and people strewn across a grassy field.

Fortunately, what looked like a crisis was only a drill.

The airport hosted a plane crash simulation that served as a practice session for first responders.   

The drill, which takes place every three years, is mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Pitt-Greenville Airport’s Executive Director Bill Hopper.  

Hopper said the simulation allows his staff to practice their crisis response efforts and fix any glitches before a real emergency occurs.

“This is something that’s great to be able to do,” Hopper said. “Mass casualties don’t just happen at airports. They can happen anywhere, and this is an excellent opportunity to put everything to the test.  

“We have an accident and we’re going to put it to the test in how we’re going to react to injuries or whatever the case may be,” Hopper said.

Hopper took over as the airport’s executive director earlier this month and said that his staff has worked hard to plan for the exercise.  

“Staff has been putting in a monumental effort to get all of this together,” he said. “These are people that are dedicated to saving life and limb. They’re here to practice that.

“What we’re doing is having a chance to make mistakes,” Hopper said. “We don’t want to do that in a real emergency, so we’ve got a certain plan that we have.”.

Pitt County Emergency Management Director Jim McArthur said more than a dozen agencies participated in the exercise.

“This type of drill and training is not something we do every day,” McArthur said.  “In a training environment like this … we can write down what corrective actions we see that we need to make for next time, what improvements we see that we can do and identify areas for training improvements.”

McArthur said the emergency services community is able and ready to respond to any type of 911 call that it receives — “from things that we do every day, including motor vehicle crashes, all the way up to aircraft and airplane emergencies.”

Hopper said that his staff will review the exercise and find ways to improve. 

“We’re going to test it, we’re going to critique it and then we’re going to be prepared should the real thing ever happen. Hopefully it never will,” Hopper said.   

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. 

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