Disaster was a test

An emergency simulation that took place yesterday morning at Grand Harbour ran smoothly despite some communication problems, according to authorities involved.

Grand Harbour shoreline

The scene of the emergency simulation yesterday
Photo: Cliodhna McGowan

An Owen Roberts International Airport emergency exercise was staged at the Grand Harbour shoreline yesterday mid-morning.

Two boats were in the water acting as a 737 aircraft carrying 40 passengers (Conch Airways) that had crashed into the North Sound shortly after take-off from the airport.

Speaking about the staged event afterwards, David Frederick, Chief Executive Officer of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority said the operation had gone very smoothly. There had been a few communications hiccups during the simulation, but nothing that would have been life threatening in a real situation, he said.

A media tent was set up at the scene, manned by GIS, through which briefings were held every few minutes to update the press with information as it arose, the way it would happen in real life. Media were updated that the rescue of passengers from the water had been very quick and all had been pulled ashore in half an hour.

Passengers were being treated at a triage area on-site for assessment. Some had been transported to the hospital. The boats posing as the plane were supplied by Red Sail Sports and Peter Milburn.

Briefings were timely and informative. However, there were conflicting reports from different departments on the actual number of fatalities resulting from the incident, with one update giving a total of 12 and another stating 11.

The exercise was staged in order to prepare all participants involved. These included, airline operators, CIAA, Fire Services, Health Services Authority, Port Authority, Red Cross, Water sports Association, CAA, RCIPS, 911, Telecommunications Department, Emergency Management Officer, GIS and Department of Environment.

CIAA’s Mr. Frederick explained the reason behind the simulated exercise. ‘We are required to hold a simulated emergency exercise according to international law every two years’, he said.

Another update informed the press that the site had been secured by the RCIPS. For investigative purposes a team was being put together to begin investigations for relevant evidence. This team would include divers. Following this, the team would look towards recovering debris from the crashed aircraft.

An emergency marine response team was in place at the site of the crash. One Drugs Task Force marine boat, two boats from Fire Services and the Cayman Protector cordoned off the accident scene 400 yards out from the runway.

The Police mobile Command Post was also on site.

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