First responders got a refresher course in aviation disaster management when the Cayman Islands Airports Authority simulated a plane crash on Wednesday afternoon.

Sixty-five “passengers,” including Governor Helen Kilpatrick, helped set the scene at George Town’s Cricket Field. Makeup artist Jimmie DeLoach made the volunteers look the part, using fake broken bones and fake blood, as their “bodies” were strewn across the field.

The drill also involved police and fire department first responders, Airports Authority officials and the Red Cross.

Red Cross volunteer Adrienn Sergios and her daughters, Jessica, 6, and Christina, 4, are helped by firefighters.
Red Cross volunteer Adrienn Sergios and her daughters, Jessica, 6, and Christina, 4, are helped by firefighters. PHOTOS: MATT LAMERS

Ms. Kilpatrick said, “The more realistic it is, the more people come to appreciate how horrific a really serious incident can be. It’s important to actually do the exercise because any amount of paper planning can never prepare people for what it’s really like on the day. And anything that first responders can do to prepare themselves has got to be a good thing.”

Roads around the airport were closed for about an hour, causing serious traffic issues for lunch-hour commuters as firefighters practiced putting out real fires that were deliberately set.

Andrew McLaughlin, chief safety officer at the Airports Authority, said they wanted to make the scene look and feel as real as possible for the responders.

Responders, he said, “train their whole life to save lives, so the adrenaline will be flowing.”

Firefighters battle a staged fire.
Firefighters battle a staged fire.

Mr. McLaughlin said the airport runway was also closed for an hour because the simulation involved a crash within 1,000 meters of the airport, putting the disaster scenario within the jurisdiction of the fire department’s aviation division, leaving no “proper” fire coverage for the runway.

Among the “injured” was Red Cross volunteer Adrienn Sergios and her daughters, Jessica, 6, and Christina, 4.

“We are in an area that has hurricanes, so you always have to be prepared for all kinds of emergencies,” she said. “People sometimes forget what it’s like. It’s important that everyone knows what to do.”

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