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Friday, June 21, 2024

Mock terrorist assault prepares Gainesville airport for potential attacks

"Terrorists" took over Regional Transit System bus 9106 on Thursday morning at the Gainesville Regional Airport.

The RTS bus filled with about 50 passengers was used as a stand-in for a jet plane during an airport emergency exercise.

The mandatory exercise is performed every three years in accordance with government regulations as an effort to prepare airports for potential attacks.

During the mock incident, SFCC students were held captive on the RTS bus posing as airline Flight 3400.

The Gainesville Police Department was on the scene pretending to negotiate with the terrorists as they demanded a plane to leave the country with several escaped prisoners.

Gainesville Fire Rescue, the Red Cross, the U.S. Navy and SWAT were also present to ensure the exercise ran as smoothly and realistically as possible.

A naval P-3 plane landed about 9:30 a.m. for the terrorists' exit from the country, but one hostage had already been killed.

The rest of Flight 3400 was injured in an explosion as the terrorists made their attempt to escape.

The exercise concluded with paramedics rushing to aid the victims of the explosion as they evacuated the RTS bus covered in bloody makeup.

Capt. Michael Heeder with the Gainesville Fire Rescue said he was up at 8 a.m. applying fake blood, Vaseline, latex and toilet paper to the SFCC emergency medical technician and paramedic students who participated in the exercise.

The students provided the airport with the volunteers needed for the exercise. They also implemented what they've learned and received extra credit for their classes.

Heeder said the students were interviewed and categorized for the exercise according to several variables including their medical history, their interest in acting and their willingness to damage their clothing.

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"We've had an explosion on the runway," the walkie-talkies of the police and paramedics blared. "We've had an explosion on the runway."

As the students began to emerge from the supposed wreckage, they appeared cut, bruised, burned and bleeding. They lay in the grass screaming until they could be evaluated by medical personnel.

Kyle Kwitowski, a 21-year-old EMT student, was covered with soot on his nose and forehead. Sweat dripped from his chin onto his neck as his fake blood began to peel away.

"They took too long so our skin started falling off," Kwitowski said.

They complained of symptoms associated with their injuries as paramedics marked them with a green, yellow or red tag, which are the colors paramedics use to label patients from the least to most severe cases.

Shirts and pants were also stuffed and strewn throughout the grass to signify the deceased. Those who "died" were marked with black tags.

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