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Brookhaven and Lincoln County emergency crews respond to simulated helicopter crash

The blood and broken bones of the victims were as fake as the emergency call, but what first responders on the scene Tuesday morning in Brookhaven saw was an overturned vehicle and a field scattered with injured people who needed assistance.

And though the Lifeflight helicopter sat unused nearby, first responders were told it had crashed, starting the chain of events.

The simulated emergency was a drill set up by Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Clifford Galey to assess responses by various city and county agencies and to make suggestions and corrections where needed.

Galey explained the scenario that emergency personnel would respond to on the rainy Tuesday morning: A Lifeflight helicopter carrying a patient crashed on its way to the landing pad at King’s Daughters Medical Center. A car speeding by the scene to get a look at the accident also crashed, ejecting the occupants and coming to rest on its side, he said.

“We have crazy people who have to go to the scene and they ran up into the scene,” he said.

As part of the drill, Diversicare of Brookhaven on Brookman Drive a block away from the scene “evacuated” patients, who were played by nursing students from Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Galey said.

He said administrators there in a real emergency would have been concerned with fumes from the spilled fuel from the helicopter. Also, power lines were cut in the crash landing and it caused a power outage, Galey said. In their scenario, their generator didn’t work.

Students from MSA arrived on the scene in a school bus and were directed to their spots in the grassy area behind K&B Seafood. Some were “bleeding” from amazingly realistic wounds. At least two were impaled by steel bars. One girl, with her legs bruised and bloody, lay motionless away from the others.

The victims wore small signs that alerted the first responders to their injuries. One young man played a member of the helicopter crew. His sign said, “Pulse weak at normal rate. Slow, gurgling respiration. Helmet cracked. Facial lacerations. Extensive bruising.”

Emergency crews worked on patient No. 5, identified as a bystander: “Skin cool and clammy. Right leg was hit by rotor debris and amputated below knee and actively bleeding.”

Police Chief Kenneth Collins watched his officers respond, blocking traffic, roping off the scene and helping keep victims calm until medical personnel could assess their injuries. He checked on victims who were waiting for triage.

He said the training exercise is invaluable to the agencies participating.

“It shows that the departments can work together,” he said. “It takes teamwork. That’s what we’re going to have to depend on.”

He said he was proud of the way his officers handled themselves in the simulated emergency situation. They reacted as if everything was real.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” he said. “They came in and did what needed to be done. We didn’t have any bosses today. We had all leaders and that’s awesome.”

Deputies from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department were also on hand to assist. Sheriff Steve Rushing said his crew jumped in and helped, just like the PD would do for his department if the accident had happened in the county.

Firefighters from the Brookhaven Fire Department responded to the crash site almost immediately, spraying foam instead of water to douse the imaginary crashed helicopter because of the possible fuel leak.

With the fire put out, firefighters set out to rescue the person partially ejected from the overturned Jeep, which was provided for the training by Porter’s Body Shop.

“I thought we did pretty well,” said shift Capt. Buddy Thibodeaux. “The guys knew exactly where to be on the scene.”

Galey planned to meet with a spokesperson from each agency for a debriefing “to see how each plan worked” for each group.

He was pleased with the overall performance but saw a few things that could have been carried out better.

“It went well. There was a couple of hiccups,” he said.

He said he would address those incidences he noted so that in a real emergency, the response would run smoother.

“Everybody has a job to do and if everybody does their job, it goes smooth,” he said.

MSA Executive Director Suzanne Hirsch said she was glad that students were asked to be a part of the emergency drill that involved King’s Daughters Medical Center.

“They had a great time doing makeup and acting as victims,” she said. “More importantly, knowing our hospital is taking measures to prepare their staff for such emergencies gives comfort to our students, many of whom are far away from home.” 

Students who portrayed victims for the emergency drill were Emma Murphree, Jonathan Lancaster, Jimeya Mayes, Angel Farmer, Olivia Estes, Avery Neyland, Mykala Clark, Hannah Campbell, Lauren Sumrall, Margaret Boyd, Jade Love and Anna Andrews.

Boyd played one of the fatally-wounded victims. Her sign said she had no pulse. A first responder covered her motionless body with a sheet and emergency personnel worked around her, carrying for other victims. Boyd, a junior vocal student at MSA, said it was a surreal experience because it could easily be something that could happen to her or her friends.

“It’s kind of scary to think about,” she said. “They were freaking out. The injuries looked really gross.”