A major mock rescue operation involving many of our local emergency services took place at Kinnego Marina at the weekend.
The exercise simulated two vehicles colliding, breaking through a road barrier and ending up in the River Bann, which led to one vehicle being washed away in its fast flowing water.
A minibus was partially submerged on the slip way at Kinnego Marina, with four ‘casualties’ trapped inside - for the purpose of the rescue one had hit their head on the windscreen, becoming unconscious.
At the second simulation at Oxford Island a family car was half submerged in the lough. It contained three adults and one child, while a second child was ‘trapped’ under the rear of the car.
At the end of exercise debrief, the 70-strong emergency response team were told they made a total of 27 rescues from the water, although seven were said to be fatalities.
The NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) with more than 30 firefighters and five appliances, including Specialist Appliances from across Southern Area Command, were involved in responding to the mock up incident on Sunday.
Partner agencies involved in the exercise included Lough Neagh Rescue, PSNI, NI Ambulance Service (NIAS) and Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol.
NIFRS Southern Area District Commander Victor Spence said: “Due to the location of this simulation incident, this could be a reality and one which we need to be prepared. It also allowed us to test interoperability between partner agencies within the area and enhanced our capability in protecting our community.
“We are well prepared and well-rehearsed in readiness for these types of incidents, nonetheless this exercise was extremely valuable and there are learning points for all the agencies involved.
PSNI Constable Colin Moore said, “It is vital that we are in position to respond to any scenario as a major emergency can occur anywhere not just at this location. We hope that we can build on learning of this event.
“We can achieve more when working together than we ever could going it alone.”
A spokesperson for Lough Neagh Rescue (LNR) said: “LNR has previously worked with emergency services smaller scale incidents and simulations, but this realistic and well organised practice operation gave crew from all three of our stations the chance to work alongside professional emergency services - whilst building on our skills and expertise. We hope to be involved in future exercises that will help keep up our good working relationship with other services.”