Plane crash simulated over San Pablo Bay

August 1, 2009 6:33:05 PM PDT
An unusual training exercise involving a simulated mid-air airplane collision over San Pablo Bay and subsequent rescue operation took place Saturday in Marin County.

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The Marin County Urban Search and Rescue Team, made up of members of almost every Marin County fire department, joined by members of the Coast Guard, California Highway Patrol, National Park Service, and others to test their response to such a crash, according to Marin County Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Giannini.

Two actual aircraft, a Cessna and a larger 30-passenger airplane, were lowered onto the San Rafael shoreline and into the San Rafael Rock Quarry to simulate the crash locations. The larger craft was perched on a ledge at the quarry.

About 100 participants were responsible for rescuing both real and simulated passengers, caring for patients, and dealing with potential interagency conflicts that could arise during such a large-scale operation.

"We've done exercises, but nothing on this scale," Giannini said.

As part of the exercise, one of the planes carried a high-level government witness to a major crime, who was being transported by federal agents, who wouldl "throw a curveball" to the exercise participants, according to Giannini.

"It's going to be really kind of unique, and it will really try the abilities of the participants," he said prior to the drill.

The exercise took place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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