Mid-Ohio Valley emergency crews train in airplane crash scenario

Photo by Evan Bevins Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Manager Jeff McDougle, left, speaks to students in the Wood County Technical Center’s emergency and fire management class Wednesday prior to the airport’s triennial full-scale exercise. The students served as passengers in a simulated plane crash.

WILLIAMSTOWN — Airport personnel, volunteer firefighters, law enforcement and more came together Wednesday for the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport’s triennial full-scale exercise.

Inspired by an incident earlier this year when a UPS plane went over a hillside at Charleston’s Yeager Airport, the scenario for Wednesday’s drill involved a Via Air plane crashing over a hill, said Jeff McDougle, Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport manager.

“Granted, it was easy access, but at least it gets them thinking what they need to have to recover the folks,” he said.

The 20 passengers on the plane consisted of more than a dozen students from the emergency and fire management class through the Wood County Technical Center at the Caperton Center, their instructor and bus driver, two Transportation Security Agency employees and a couple relatives of airport employees.

“What we talk about all the time, we’ll actually get to see in action,” said Jim Reynolds, emergency and fire management instructor.

Photo by Evan Bevins Waverly volunteer firefighter/EMT Robert Wherry, left; Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport chief of operations Roger Haynes, second from left; and another Waverly firefighter place volunteer Lynn Cross on a backboard during a response to a simulated plane crash Wednesday as part of the airport’s triennial full-scale exercise.

The passengers were given chairs at the bottom of a hill on airport property, and Via Air station manager Chuck Peters passed out pieces of paper to them designating the status of their injuries — white with an “X” for deceased, red for critically injured and green for walking wounded.

Airport line chief Kevin Dotson was the first one down to the crash site, escorting those who could walk back up the hill. Other airport personnel — all of whom are trained as firefighters — followed, before Williamstown and Waverly Volunteer Fire Department members arrived on scene.

Parkersburg High School and Wood County Technical Center senior Chandler Williamson was one of the “survivors” who walked up and got to see the rescue personnel work together.

“First no one, then you got like 15 trucks here, and they’re all heading down there to help people,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

Some passengers were carried up on backboards and litters, while some of the critically injured were helped into an airport pickup truck that drove them to the top.

Photo by Evan Bevins Clockwise from bottom left, Williamstown firefighter/EMT Jim Crawford and Waverly firefighter/EMT Robert Wherry load volunteer Lynn Cross into the back of an airport pickup truck as Wood County Technical Center seniors Sylvia Wilhelm, Austen Fritz and Bri Wigal pull her in during the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport’s triennial full-scale exercise, which focused on a response to a simulated plane crash.

“I think it was really cool watching three departments working together,” said Austen Fritz, a senior at Williamstown High School and the technical center.

Other participants included the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, West Virginia State Police, Camden Clark Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Ambulance Service, the Wood County 911 Center and Westbrook Health Services, who would provide counseling for friends and family of passengers involved in the crash.

Communication issues arose because the airport’s radios are on a UHF frequency and first responders are on VHF, but McDougle said the 911 center’s mobile command unit can connect the two.

“It couldn’t have gone better,” McDougle said of the drill. “It’s a good test for everybody.”

The exercise is mandated every three years by the Federal Aviation Administration.