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Crews Get Valuable Training in Midair 'Collision'

OGDEN, Utah -- The mock crash of two Air Force aircraft gave emergency responders in Weber and Davis counties a chance Tuesday to practice treating and transporting dozens of victims.

In the scenario, a C-9 jet from from Hill Air Force Base lost radio contact with air controllers as it was returning to base when a C-130 emerged from Farmington Canyon. The pilots tried to avoid each other, but their wings clipped, sending the C-9 down into a field near Ogden Regional Airport and the C-130 into a hillside in the canyon.

"We need to do this every year," said Lance Peterson, Weber County's emergency-services director. "Whenever you have tons of resources coming into a scene, it's chaos. There is so much to be done so fast. This gives medical responders an opportunity to respond to see if we can do it."

There were more than 70 "victims" - most of them young people in training at the Clearfield Job Corps - at the mock-crash site. Ogden Fire Department responders tagged only four victims with black ribbons, showing that they were "dead or likely to die" - and thus lowest priority for quick help.

"I love this," said Shadow Santillana, 20, of Denver, Colo. "How many times do I get glass in my head?" asked a bloodied Santillana, whose head wound prompted Ogden firefighter Theron Williams to tag him for dead.

"Unconscious" victims swatted away the ants that crawled over them as they lay in the field awaiting treatment. "I'm being eaten alive!" said Andrew Camarillo, 21, of Henderson, Nev., another one tagged with a black ribbon.

Though the exercise lacked the urgency of a true disaster, Ogden firefighters wearing rubber gloves moved quickly from one victim to the next, asking questions to determine whether they were conscious and assessing injuries.

"Hello! Tell me your name. Can you talk to me? Tell me your name!"

The responders tagged the wrists of the walking wounded with green ribbons, those with serious injuries got yellow, and those in need of immediate attention were labeled as red. Those who could not walk were carried on stretchers to waiting ambulances and Utah Transit Authority buses, which took them to McKay-Dee and Ogden Regional hospitals. LifeFlight carried away several "victims."

In Farmington Canyon, emergency crews had to rappel to the crash site where there were eight "victims."

It wasn't hard to find trainees willing to take the part, since they were being lifted to medical helicopters, said Loretta Cole, the Job Corps health and safety instructor who kept reminding the injured to cry for help - and the unconscious to lie still.

Cole said Tuesday's exercise was the largest ever to involve the Job Corps students.

"This is part of their learning and growing," said Cole. "They are part of the community."

Capt. Casey Anderson, the medical-branch director for the Ogden Fire Department, said such exercises are useful because without a sense of urgency, responders can think more clearly about what they need to do.

"When you have the real deal . . . the stakes are a lot higher."

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