Practice plane crash lights up downtown Dillon Saturday

Emergency responders tend to the “wounded” during a training exercise involving a mock plane crash into downtown Dillon on Saturday. M.P. Regan photo

A small aircraft crashed into downtown Dillon on Saturday, killing a half dozen people and injuring dozens more in and around the Depot Theatre.

Not really.

But local emergency responders and volunteer victims did their best to simulate that scenario Saturday morning, when more than 60 people helped recreate the aftermath of a plane slamming into a crowded building and park, and the ensuing death, injuries and chaos.

“We even tried to get a plane fuselage out here but couldn’t find one in time,” said Beaverhead Emergency Services (BEMS) Training Coordinator Brenda Kirkley, who played a central role in organizing the event along with BEMS’ Kathy Hilton and Sue Hansen, director of Beaverhead County Public Health.

The complex exercise placed dozens of victims in the theatre amidst fallen debris and more in Depot Park (one pierced through the abdomen by a fallen tree limb) to provide a community practice run for dealing with all the complex issues and imperatives surrounding a mass casualty emergency.

“We got together with different local agencies and asked them, if we had a plane wreck and a mass casualty event, what would you want to practice to prepare?” revealed Kirkley, recipient of a prestigious Montana Star of Life award in 2012.

“Each organization had its own goals and then we created the scenario based on what they all wanted to practice.”

Dillon Volunteer Fire Department personnel rehearsed gross decontamination, spraying down crash victims covered by baby powder posing as crop dusting chemicals.

Members of the Dillon Police and Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Departments shut down several blocks downtown while practicing evacuation, securing an emergency scene and crowd control in a situation full of dazed and panicked people looking for escape and help.

BEMS brushed up on getting people the medical help they needed through triaging victims and transporting dozens of them to Barrett Hospital & Healthcare, aided by members of Beaverhead Search & Rescue and the local National Guard unit.

Barrett Hospital & Healthcare (BHH) used the event to refine its practices in a half dozen different areas, including tracking patients and internal communications.


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