A wrong turn in eastern Liberty County was the set-up for a major-disaster drill Saturday that tested the skills of various emergency agencies.
The scenario for the drill — which involved members of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, EMS, Fire Departments and Life Star — involved the mock rollover of a tractor-trailer into a lake near Islands Highway. According to Robyn Todd, director of Liberty Regional Emergency Medical Services, the truck, an 18-wheeler, was carrying a load of chemicals when the driver realized he was traveling in the wrong direction and attempted to make a turn on property that contained a small lake. While attempting to turn the rig around, the driver accidently rolled his vehicle into the lake, ejecting him and spilling a load of chemicals. A group of teens and adults who were having a sleepover nearby were overcome by the fumes from the spill.
Todd said none of the personnel who took part in the exercise was unaware of the drill. Nearby officers responded to 911 call of a truck accident and found the children and adults gasping for air and convulsing. The officers began evacuating victims as Islands Highway filled with emergency vehicles and personnel. The victims were decontaminated and rushed to Liberty Regional Medical Center in Hinesville, where they were treated for their injuries. At one point, a mannequin was flown by Life Star for treatment at a Savannah Hospital.
The exercise was designed to point out areas that needed work for an actual mass casualty, which were identified in an after-action report by Mike Hodges of Liberty County EMA.