A semi-trailer truck, boat and several cars were smashed together in a Las Vegas parking lot Friday night, as area firefighters tended to volunteer "victims" in a mock accident.
The mass-casualty drill was designed to give firefighters hands-on experience evaluating and responding to a serious accident.
"When we practice these things ahead of time, it runs more smoothly when there is an accident because everyone knows how thing are supposed to operate," said Las Vegas Fire Department spokesman Tim Syzmanski.
The drill was hosted by the Las Vegas Fire Department, and included firefighters and paramedics from North Las Vegas and Clark County. Firefighters brought out tools including saws, winches, the Jaws of Life, even a helicopter to respond to a scene officials described as "coordinated chaos."
The drill was held in the parking lot of Ewing Brothers Towing, at Owens Avenue and D Street. The company lent the rescue teams a specialized truck known as a rotator that can lift vehicles weighing up to 60 tons off the ground. It was used to pull a semi off a car wedged beneath it.
The focus of the exercise was to practice triage of the victims, identifying the most critically injured for immediate care. Of the 28 volunteer victims, nine were critically injured.
"Whenever you have an accident, we want to get the patient into the trauma unit within the first hour, which they call the 'golden hour,'" Syzmanski said. "The clock starts ticking from the time the accident occurs...and if they're trapped under a vehicle or down in a ravine, that all works against us."
Mass casualty accidents don't happen often, but when they do "they don't happen under ideal conditions," Szmanski said. Friday's training was an intentionally difficult, worst-case scenario to challenge the rescue teams.
The drill went well, the participating firefighters said, and some early communication problems were quickly smoothed over.
"We had a little bit of a slip-up once we pulled victims out," said Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Capt. Eddie Vigil. "[We needed] to communicate a little bit better with triage on who was going to come and pick them up to take them to the treatment area. There was a little bit of chaos there...but it worked out OK."