Operation Coastal Response emergency training held at local sites in Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island

  • Saturday, February 1, 2014

Anita Crone/For The Times National Guard soldiers carry an actor playing the part of a severely injured passenger from a simulated plane crash on Saturday. The guard took part in Operation Coastal Response, designed to assess how well various county, state and county agencies would handle a plane crash.

Photos

Training exercises for a coastal rescue team using Black Hawk helicopters took place today at Waccamaw Middle and Intermediate schools, Wacca Wache Marina, Bucksport Marina, and surrounding waters.

The training, called Operation Coastal Response, was performed by the S.C. National Guard’s S.C. Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SC-HART).

SC-HART is a collaborative effort between the State Urban Search and Rescue Task Force (SC-TF1) under the direction of S.C. LLR, Office of the State Fire Marshal, S.C. Emergency Management Division and S.C. Army National Guard Aviation Units based at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, Eastover, S.C.

This team, which is made up of all volunteers, is one of only five in the country.

Waccamaw schools

The training at Waccamaw Middle and Intermediate schools involved static training with two Black Hawk helicopters for ambulatory and non-ambulatory rescues.

Dan McManus, assistant state fire marshal, explained that these are also called walking and non-walking rescues.

Non-walking rescues involve using a litter (stretcher), he said.

During the training, one of the helicopters was used for rescuers and one for victims.

“There are certain qualifications the team members have to meet to keep flying,” McManus said.

“They train every 90 days and must complete four successful hoists within nine months.”

He said some of the aquatic training that involved team members being submerged were cancelled for this training session.

“After the recent snow storm, the temperature of the water dropped below 40 degrees,” McManus said.

“With water at that temperature, hypothermia would set in within 10 to 15 minutes.”

The next training session is tentatively set for April and will be in another area, according to CWH Sean Reynolds, standardization pilot.

Col. Charles Lewis, who is in command of the Black Hawks, said that the SC HART team is a valuable resource in this coastal area.

“The National Guard and our first responders learned after Hurricane Katrina that if we don’t have this kind of relationship between first responders and something happens, it is too late,” Lewis said.

“With a team like this in South Carolina, we can respond faster and better to a natural disaster like a hurricane.”

Bucksport Marina

At Bucksport Marina, part of the simulated fuselage of the MD-80 bound for Myrtle Beach International Airport with about 150 passengers aboard came to rest in a field. There,

Horry County paramedics, volunteers from the American Red Cross, Horry County police officers, members of the S.C. National Guard among others combined to aid the “victims,” volunteers who agreed to stand in for the injured and dead had there been a real emergency.

“With this many people and these agencies, we want to ensure we coordinate,” said a paramedic, who did not give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

As volunteers tended to the wounded on the ground, banging could be heard from inside the “downed” fuselage.

While one or two people staggered to the ground from the aircraft, others weren’t so fortunate, “killed” in their seats.

Lt. Robert Kegler, police department spokesman, said early in the exercise that contact with the plane, bound for Myrtle Beach International Airport, was lost about 8:50 a.m.

By 9:15 a.m., emergency officials were at the Bucksport Marina site. By 11 a.m., they had set up a police perimeter.

Later, Kegler said that there were fatalities and injuries, but he had no count.

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