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Search and Rescue tests real skills in mock air disaster at Mountain View

Search and Rescue was in the air and on the ground at Mountain View Monday morning using real training and skills in response to a mock air disaster.

The annual National Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) began Sunday in Hamilton and continues aerial and ground searches, medical responses, parachute accuracy and rescues all week.

Just after 8 a.m. Monday, SAREX responded to the call about a remote area crash of a Buffalo aircraft and a Tutor jet with some 40 people involved. Up to a dozen people were believed to be killed and many more injured.

Dr. John Bonn, Honorary Colonel of 424 Squadron at 8 Wing, was on the scene in Mountain View. He said SAREX squadrons from across the country all based in Hamilton arrived on the scene.

“This morning they got a call that there is a major air disaster at Mountain View. The Hercules aircraft was the first to the scene, assessed the situation and called back to the base and the resources were tasked to come here.”

After surveying the situation, two SAR techs were dropped in, then a mass drop of about 15 SAR techs followed. They’re now assessing the scene and searching for victims in the crash, triaging them for their injuries and treating them with medical care.”

James Taylor and Braden Trudeau ready to act as casualties.

424 SAR tech James Taylor usually works out of 8 Wing Trenton maintaining the aircraft seen flying around the scene, but today he and aviator Braden Trudeau, were among casualties placed in the aircraft and surrounding woods awaiting the arrival of SAR techs to find them.

“I’ll be screaming in obvious pain, holding my eye,” said Taylor. “I also have a chest injury and a broken right ankle. There’s no prosthetic for my ankle so I’ll just loosen my boot and twist it. When the SAR techs touch it, I will scream appropriately so they know.”

While the casualties were being triaged, the army moved in to drop supplies and erect tents. Landing areas were secured for three helicopters to evacuate survivors.

Capt. Jennifer Howell, 8 Wing public affairs officer, said the exercises involve deployment of Canadian Armed Forces personnel and equipment with a focus on improved co-operation and demonstration of skills and best practices.

“We’re exercising our ability to respond to a major air crash – get our assets on scene, deliver first aid and get people to hospitals,” Howell said. “So we have layers of response throughout the day. It’s about the ability to work together and it’s also a chance to work through how well we communicated with each other.”

John Fleming, flight engineer with 424 Squadron, created the crash scenes.

John Fleming, flight engineer with 424 Squadron, created the crash scenes and said it involved co-ordination with almost every section of the air force beginning about four months ago.

“We had this derelict Buffalo aircraft shell (poignantly one also flying over head) and a Tutor aircraft that were slated to be cut apart for scrap. Our Search and Rescue technicians want a ‘train as you fight’; fight as you train’ scenario so we can make it as real as possible for them… So we co-ordinated with everyone to clean them out, move them and modify them for today.”

The set up he has built has continued life past Monday, he noted, hoping it will be a valuable resource for training for years to come.


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