Area law enforcement and first responders took part Thursday in the area’s first mock train crash which organizers said had multiple goals.
Claude Maher Sr., Operation Lifesaver Louis-iana executive director, said his organization mostly provides free presentations to students, drivers, law enforcement and first responders, but said they try to stage a train crash at least once a year.
The exercise came to New Iberia, in part, because of Michael Murphy, the Genesee & Wyoming Inc. southern region director of safety.
Murphy said there is a real issue with train accidents in the area.
“The amount we have is much higher than it should be,” he said of area train accidents.
So he talked to the regional safety manager William Jacobs about doing something to raise awareness in the area.
Operation Lifesaver was able to coordinate the drill, bringing in the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, State Police, New Iberia Fire Department and Acadian Ambulance.
The scene was set at the Louisiana and Delta Railroad maintenance yard on St. Mary Street.
The “accident” involved a sugar cane cart, a freight train and a vehicle. Emergency responders had to check on the conductor and engineer and the driver of the vehicle as well as a person injured in the accident who was a stowaway on the train.
Maher said stowaways are relatively common on freight trains. He said they decided to use the sugar cane cart in light of the season when 500,000 loads of sugar cane will be hauled through the region.
The drills, he said, serve to raise awareness to the public and train law enforcement and first responders.
There were several people on site in orange and red hats with whistles who were tasked with observing the drill to see what went right and what went wrong.
Had any responder put himself or herself in real, immediate danger, these observers would have blown their whistles and shut down the drill, Maher said.
Agencies who took part in the drill will be briefed today on what they need to improve.
Louisiana State Police Trooper Stephen Hammons, Troop I public information officer, said the drill was an opportunity for all agencies involved to build their knowledge for future crashes.
“Commonly when we respond to a train crash, we haven’t trained on it, so everything is very fluid,” he said. “Now by being able to train, we’ll have opportunity to go back on that training and hopefully correct any mistakes, if there are any. That way in the event there is a live train crash, we’re able to minimize mistakes and make corrections.”