Victoria airport stages disaster response exercise

Response exercise to test airport, Saanich Peninsula fire, paramedics and police personnel on disaster readiness.

Firefighters from Central Saanich place an 'injured' passenger from a simulated airplane crash at the Victoria airport Thursday morning

That smoke rising from the Victoria International Airport Thursday morning signaled the beginning of a simulated aircraft crash — and emergency crews rushed into action.

The exercise simulated a downed WestJet aircraft on its final approach to the airport’s runway 09. The scenario had the aircraft losing thrust and descending rapidly, impacting the ground next to the runway.

First on the scene (apart from observers, media and simulation personnel) were firefighters from the airport itself. Initial response vehicles doused flames with water and foam. The department’s main truck used its telescopic arm to puncture a burning mini-van and put out the fire.

With the fire under control, firefighters from North Saanich, Central Saanich and Sidney arrived and began efforts to free trapped passengers and bystanders (all simulated with mannequins) from the wreckage. Live volunteers were used to help paramedics and firefighters respond to “injuries.”

The wounded and dead (simulated, of course) were marshaled in a nearby staging area, as police with the Sidney North Saancih RCMP  cordoned off the scene for crash scene investigation.

The exercise is done to test the response and readiness of local emergency agencies. It’s required to test the Victoria Airport Authority’s Emergency Response Plan and happens every four years.