La Crosse Regional Airport holds emergency response exercise to prepare for real-life scenarios

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – If you were near the La Crosse Regional Airport and saw a lot of emergency crews Wednesday evening, there was no need to worry.

You don’t usually see high-schoolers, college students, law enforcement and first-responders scattered along the runway.

“Just seemed like a unique opportunity that you wouldn’t get normally,” Civil Air Patrol volunteer Elijah Vieth said.

Elijah, who says he wants to be an Air Force Pilot, wanted in on the action.

“I’m supposed to go lay down, be unconscious, and when they check on me, I’m not supposed to respond to them,” Elijah said.

Don’t worry, Elijah and other “passengers” are not actually getting hurt.

It’s all part of a mock airplane accident.

“This is what’s called our tri-annual airport emergency exercise,” La Crosse Regional Airport director Ian Turner said. “The takeaway that I hope everybody leaves here tonight with is an understanding of what their role is.”

Just in case if a real-life emergency were to happen.

“We’ll go through the process from the alert stage where we will roll our aircraft rescue firefighting apparatus, put out fires on the mock-up aircraft,” Turner said. “From that point, mutual aid will arrive, will triage passengers and will get those passengers off to the hospitals.”

Those aren’t actual passengers, but rather volunteers from the Civil Air Patrol and Western Technical College.

“Without those types of volunteers, this really wouldn’t be quite as realistic as is possibly could,” Turner said.

The airport is required to hold these types of emergency response exercises once every three years in compliance with Federal Aviation Standards.

Turner says because this was just an exercise, there was no firefighting foam sprayed. He says up to 80 people participated in the exercise.

It started at 6 p.m. Wednesday and went to around 8:30.