It's the worst case scenario any airport manager could imagine.
A building full of family members waiting for loved ones to arrive and dozens of passengers waiting for that same plane to take them to their destination. As the plane comes in for landing, something malfunctions. The plane skids across the runway, cartwheels, and lands in an open field. 50 people, including passengers and crew members, are injured or dead. Fires erupt, family members are in panic, and the rest are in shock.
This was the exact mock scenario that played out at the Vernal Regional Airport on Friday night. As part of FAA regulations, the airport is now required to hold a large scale mock disaster every three years.
"It was mass chaos, but that was kind of the intent was to have it be more than we could handle so we know what really, truly to expect in a bad scenario," said Doug Brown, Vernal Regional Airport Manager.
Dozens of volunteer "victims" donned fake bones, lacerations and karo syrup as local emergency responders rushed to the scene and reacted as they would in the case of a real disaster. By the end of the night, over 120 people were involved in the drill, from Central Dispatch, to Utah Highway Patrol, multiple fire departments, Gold Cross, and SkyWest Airlines.
Brown said they learned a lot from this exercise and identified many areas to improve on, including scene security and overall communications. He said his team will come together and update their emergency plan based on the drill last week. Brown said he's confident many of the participating agencies will update their procedures as a result of this exercise.
Despite the chaos, Brown said the teamwork between agencies was something that all Basin residents, and responders, should be proud of and take comfort in.
"It's a close knit community. I think that gives us a lot of hope for the future that we know how to work together already so in a real life scenario, whether it's this, or something up in town...we can work well together in any situation," said Brown.