Smoke, flames and casualties at search and rescue exercise

By Julie Whittet

Search and rescue crews were in full emergency response this afternoon at the Kelowna International airport. Thankfully, it was all part of a well-planned exercise, organized by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as they conduct their training week that ends this Friday.

“This is an exercise designed to expose our members to a mass-casualty situation involving an air crash,” said Captain Trevor Reid of the Canadian Forces Comox squadron. Reid says the primary mandate of the Canadian Armed Forces search and rescue team is to respond to aviation and marine emergencies.

The simulation was designed as though an actual plane crash had taken place. Smoke and flames smoldered from the wreckage, Search and Rescue (SAR) technicians parachuted from Buffalo aircraft and ambulance crews arrived on scene to tend to wounded casualties. Once the first responders got situation under control, a large yellow Cormorant helicopter touched down to evacuate the casualties.

Capt. Reid says, “if an air crash happens in Canada, it's the Canadian Armed Forces job to respond to that crash.”

Reid says the 442 Squadron trains everyday throughout the year to keep their skills sharp at all times. He says, "when they do get the call, they need to be able to respond to a very high standard."

The two-hour exercise took place off to the side of the airport's airfield at 1 PM this afternoon. The Civilian Air Search and Rescue and local ground search and rescue teams also participated in the training exercise.

"Kelowna offers great logistical support,” Reid says.

It's not the first time the RCAF has been stationed in Kelowna. Their SAR team came to Kelowna in 2011 when a helicopter went missing.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at jwhittet@infotelnews.ca or call (250) 718-0428.

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