Fire­fighter, nurse de­scribe hor­rific scenes they wit­nessed after Mon­day’s plane crash

Malta Independent - - PLANE TRAGEDY - Neil Camil­leri Watch the video in­ter­views on www.in­de­pen­dent.com.mt

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)

Emanuel Psaila

Josvic Galea

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