A group of Tri County High School students laid in a tipped bus in the school parking lot on Saturday.
Colored masking tape on their bodies indicated where scrapes, blood and broken bones would be, while cards around their necks detailed fake injuries as part of the training event for area fire and rescue squads.
The incident was staged to look like the bus attempted to avoid hitting an oncoming car, then rolled to its side before ultimately colliding with the vehicle.
Fire departments and emergency medical services from Dewitt, Plymouth, Beatrice, Fairbury, Clatonia, Courtland and Swanton then practiced rescuing the students.
The incident was timed so that the departments could arrive as they would if the accident were real. Students screamed “my leg," called out for help or feigned passing out, as their injuries required.
After the bus was stabilized, the least injured students were removed and monitored. One student fled in mock panic, so the Saline and Jefferson County departments used their drone to locate her. Once space was cleared in the bus, EMSs entered to treat the wounds and remove the more critical students.
A StarCare helicopter was called to fly the most injured student to the Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, while the Plymouth and Dewitt departments simulated taking students to the Beatrice Community Hospital and Crete Area Medical Center, respectively.
One student, illustrated by a stuffed uniform, was crushed under the bus and pronounced dead, so the departments had to lift the bus and remove them.
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A triage officer also pretended to have a heart attack during the simulation, which could actually happen in an accident like this, so the departments had to care for him, as well.
The bus was provided by Tri County and was decommissioned, so the departments got to use hydraulic rescue tools, also known as the Jaws of Life. After the students were removed, the departments practiced making entry points into the vehicles.
Throughout the simulation, Tim Garrison, assistant chief of the DeWitt Fire Department, viewed the scene and noted student’s names, injuries and where they were being transported. That way, when parents showed up at the accident they could be informed.
Garrison said departments have not dealt with a bus accident recently, but that it was good to stage one so the departments would know how to work together.
“We hope this never, ever happens, but we want to be prepared if a bus accident does happen,” Garrison said.
Garrison told the group that the simulation was pretty efficient. However, the group discussed that in an actual accident there needs to be more discussion between the departments. Also, instead of someone like Garrison assessing the accident and paying attention to the students, those roles need to be split to be more efficient.
The students involved said the experience was eye opening for them.
“It was pretty scary,” junior Kynlee Uher said. “If it would have happened in real life, I don’t know what it actually would’ve been like. But just as it was now, it was pretty scary.”
The students were told to make the simulation difficult for the departments, but said they’d be more cooperative in an actual accident.
“I think it helped us learn, if this would ever happen, try to stay calm with first responders, stuff like that,” junior Cole Siems said.