O.B. conducts boat collision drill

First responders answer the call to practice.

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A multiagency drill meant to hone marine and shoreside response in the event of a two-boat collision unfolded Sunday morning off Inkwell Beach in Oak Bluffs. The drill was planned and coordinated by the Oak Bluffs Fire and EMS departments.

Oak Bluffs Fire Chief John Rose said the exercise “went excellent,” but amended his comment to say, “Things went as smoothly as they can for such a large-scale event.” At the drill, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and Edgartown Fire and EMS were joined by Tri-Town Ambulance, West Tisbury firefighters, Boston MedFlight, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Additionally, Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury rescue divers and Oak Bluffs harbormaster staff participated. 

About 70 people took part in the exercise, Rose said. The premise was two 24-foot pleasure boats crashing together. Rescue mannequins and volunteers were used to represent four deaths and 19 injuries requiring transfer to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. 

Boston MedFlight landed a helicopter in Waban Park as part of the drill. 

Rick Kenin, chief operating officer for Boston MedFlight, described the drill as a “great learning opportunity” for Oak Bluffs first responders and Boston MedFlight crews, especially in the use of a remote landing zone. 

“We traditionally go to MVH helipad and receive our patients from the hospital,” Kenin wrote in an email. “However, we have designated landing zones across the Island, including Waban Park, and this was a good opportunity to use one of those landing zones, with OBFD supporting that operation. Thanks go to OBFD for their initiative to organize this exercise.”

“It went very well,” West Tisbury firefighter Glenn DeBlase said. “For the size and scope of the drill, it was well-organized.”

Deblase said he was aboard the West Tisbury rescue-dive boat with Capt. Kenny Mastromonaco and Capt. Eric Medeiros, who took part in rescue diving and located a mannequin ahead of the drill to simulate a body on the seafloor. 

The U.S. Coast Guard deployed a 45-foot response boat from Station Woods Hole.

“We always look forward to an opportunity to work with our partners,” Petty Officer Nicole Groll said. “We can’t do our job without our partners.”

 “I think overall it went well,” Tisbury Assistant Fire Chief Greg Leland said. “It showed us some of our limitations and it showed us some of our strengths.”

Rose said one of those limitations was clear communications. He said there were frequency issues, and getting in touch with the Coast Guard was problematic. 

“It all has to do with our infrastructure,” he said. “That’s why we’re so aggressive working with the sheriff to improve that system.”

“We learned a lot,” Tri-Town Ambulance Chief Ben Retmier said. Retmier said one thing that was practiced was switching ambulance order, meaning the crew that arrives in a given ambulance may hand that vehicle off to another medical crew, and later transport a patient in different ambulance from a different town. 

“I think everything worked out really well,” Retmier added. 

Edgartown Fire Chief Alex Schaeffer said he thought it was a good simulation. Schaeffer said he worked alongside Leland at the command truck, working a bank of radios to coordinate marine assets. Rose, who held overall command, said an exercise of this type hasn’t happened in Oak Bluffs for a decade, and it took about five months to plan.