First Responders Answer the Call in Aftermath of Air Show Incident

  • Published
  • By Maj. Andrew Schmidt
  • 167Aw, Public Affairs
With the tragic crash of a T-28 aircraft on base on the first day of the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Air Show and Open House, community members were able to see first-hand how 167th Airlift Wing first-response teams do their jobs in real-world situations.
"The fire and security teams responded immediately, and everyone in uniform knew the community was looking to them for guidance and reassurance," said Col. Roger Nye, 167th Airlift Wing commander. "Everyone was professional and kept the community informed and calm in a tense time. I couldn't be more proud of this Wing."
"This kind of quick and effective response is what happens when you train over and over for the worst possible outcomes," he said.
Fire Department personnel were on the scene within seconds and quickly discerned that it was a recovery rather than rescue operation and acted accordingly, said Maj. Paul A. Henry, 167th Civil Engineering Squadron operations officer.
"The fire dawgs trained well, they had everything down, and their response was spot-on," he said. You couldn't ask for a better response ... everyone made the right decisions and the right calls at all levels."
Security Forces personnel integrated with military and local civilian agencies during the initial emergency response, then transitioned seamlessly into recovery mode and assisted federal agencies with the investigation, said Capt. William M. Lemon, 167th Security Forces commander. "All facets of the Security Forces operation were accomplished with professionalism and attention to detail. This mindset was apparent from the start and lasted throughout the initial 17-hour work day, continuing until the investigation was complete on-site," he said.
"I'm very proud and fortunate to be part of such an excellent team, and I'm honored to be their commander."
The groundwork for the response was laid out well in advance of the event, said Maj. Tracy Adams, who served as the director of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on that day. "We had the EOC set up before the air show started just in case such an event happened," he said.
Multiple agencies worked in conjunction in the EOC, including the Berkeley County Sheriff's department and the Berkeley County Ambulance Authority. All were involved in the response.
The job of the EOC is to provide support for the first responders in any way that they need it," he said, adding that the Repair and Reclamation (R&R) crash and recovery team was provided with equipment and supplies to help with the recovery of the aircraft wreckage.
No one in attendance was hurt as a result of the accident, which happened about three hours into the event, and the crowd of about 20,000 spectators was evacuated from the base in a swift and safe fashion by Security Forces and other uniformed personnel. The crash site was distant from any spectators.
The pilot, John "Jack" Mangan of Cornelius, N.C., died as a result of the crash. He was an Air Force veteran and a 1979 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy.
"We were fortunate that the safety measures put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration ensured the safety of those on the ground," said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard.