Firefighter, nurse describe horrific scenes they witnessed after Monday’s plane crash
A firefighter and an emergency nurse yesterday described the harrowing scenes they witnessed after Monday’s plane crash in Luqa, in which five Frenchmen lost their lives.
The Malta Independent spoke to Emanuel Psaila, the Deputy Director of the Civil Protection Department who was on site and leading his men shortly after the 7.20am incident.
“We received a call about a major incident at the airport so the department dispatched units from the Ħal Far, Kordin and USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) stations. We arrived within minutes but found that the airport firemen had already put out the fire. We then started a perimeter search to determine exactly what had happened, how big the incident was, whether any other areas had been affected and if there were any other fires. “
Mr Psaila said the burned remains of the Frenchmen were spotted among the wreckage but the identification process only started after the health authorities arrived and a doctor had pronounced them dead.
The CPD members were then asked to assist with the magisterial inquiry. “They needed to make use of our turntable ladder truck to take pictures from above the scene and we also recovered parts of the aircraft from trees.” The CPD officers then instructed the MIA fire engine crews to spray more foam over the wreckage because a strong smell of fuel still lingered over the area.
“Fuel is a major hazard in such a situation and in this case the plane’s tanks were still full, hence the big fireball caught on video. Despite the first cover of foam there were still fuel vapours and we sprayed foam again to avoid another ignition.”
Mr Psaila said the CPD crew were provided with a counselling service soon after the incident. “Every situation is hard on our people and everyone would need psychological help, even though we deal with gruesome scenes on a regular basis.”
The CPD Deputy Director said the firefighters and all other rescue officers involved had performed well. “We constantly train for difficult scenarios. In fact we will be taking part in an exercise with the Malta International Airport, the armed forces and the health authorities in the coming weeks. These simulations take place on a fairly regular basis and are very realistic, the only difference being that there are no dead bodies in an exercise. Yesterday’s incident showed the good coordination that exists between the different services. Everyone knew what their role was.”
The Malta Independent also spoke to Josvic Galea, a Staff Nurse at Mater Dei Hospital. He was also among the first people on the scene.
“When the call came in we had no idea how many people were involved. We dispatched three ambulances – two from Mater Dei and one from Paola. We also sent out the Major Incident Van, which we use to treat mass injuries. When we got there we found a very unpleasant sight – the area was covered in debris – twisted and unrecognisable pieces of metal. We were then told that we didn’t have much to do (on account that there were no injuries, only deaths). We stood some of our units down and kept one unit in place to cover for any incident that might have taken place during the recovery operation.”
Asked how Monday’s incident compares to other, everyday accidents Mr Galea said no situation is the same as the one before and emergency crews have to deal with each situation accordingly. He says training, although never enough, is essential and all branches of the emergency services worked seamlessly together.
Photo: Omar Camilleri (DOI)