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Helicopter rescue exercises over College Station: Responders prepare for the worst

Posted at 9:22 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 22:22:14-04

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Pulling a storm victim from a crashed train or sunken school bus.

It’s a scenario most wouldn’t want to imagine, but a brave few have to prepare for consistently.

Several dozen soldiers, firefighters and other first responders from across the country have been in College Station this week at TEEX - Disaster City’s practice sets, repelling from helicopters and saving volunteers role playing distressed victims.

“It’s extremely helpful for us," said Anthony Di Marco, a rescue swimmer for Texas Task Force 1. "We [typically] practice twice a month and rescue each other. So, it’s good to have somebody out there that doesn’t know what will happen next and may be a little timid, upset, or worried about something.”

First responders like Di Marco have been coming to Disaster City for all four years that TEEX has hosted their annual SAREX rescue training event.

Steve Sparks, a rescue manager for TTF1, has spent many years on the hero’s end of a rescue mission. Wednesday, however, he was one of nearly a hundred volunteers playing the important role of a victim.

“They [the rescuers] start taking off, and your legs are no longer on the ground," Sparks said, describing a helicopter exercise. "You’re just riding and kind of spinning around. He’s [the rescuer] holding on to you and controlling you to make sure you can’t do anything to harm yourself or him.”

Exercises were also being performed at places like Lake Bryan and lake Somerville. Ultimately, it’s worth all the sweat and sunburn. Di Marco said he's learned plenty of good lessons from these trainings:

“Slow down," he said. "Slow and smooth, smooth is fast. And just be as safe as possible. Communication is always key no matter what you do in any line of work, and it’s definitely something we can always improve on.”