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Large-scale cold-water drill on Chautauqua Lake simulates air disaster

LAKEWOOD – More than 300 volunteer firefighters, emergency responders, Coast Guard members and volunteers attended a cold-water drill on Chautauqua Lake Saturday.

The training event simulated an airplane crash from a plane with 50 people onboard. John Griffith of Chautauqua County fire services said the lake was chosen for the drill necause it is in the flight path of a plane taking off from the nearby Jamestown Airport.

Responders used hovercraft and the Coast Guard brought in a helicopter to bring the simulated victims into the shore area for evaluation. Ambulances were nearby to drive the victims to WCA Hospital in Jamestown, where emergency room personnel also participated in the training exercise.

Officals on hand for the large-scale drill included Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan, State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, Fredonia Mayor Steve Keefe and County Legislator Janet Keefe, D-Fredonia.

Emergency responders from 18 departments throughout Chautauqua County started training for the drill in September. The county’s Hazardous Materials Team was also on the site to provide decontamination simulation and warming tents for the responders.

Kurt Hallberg, Lakewood fire chief, served as officer in charge of the exercise.