It’s been a long couple of days for Connecticut state firefighters from Bradley International Airport and the Connecticut National Guard, especially those on duty who were the first to respond to the vintage plane crash Wednesday.
“It hasn’t sunk in to any of us as of yet,” said IAFF local S-15 President Steve McDuell. He’s been president of the local union for 9 years and a firefighter at the airport for 16 years.
McDuell said plane crashes are something they have prepared for. “The firefighters did an amazing job. They did everything they were trained to do,” he said.
But, of course, it's something they hoped they’d never have to respond to.
McDuell painted a picture of what the first couple of minutes looked like for his colleagues who were first called to the crash. “So we had 7 guys on duty, which is three crash trucks, paramedic, and two guys in the engine and the Air Guard, I believe had three or four people.”
He continued, “so you’re starting out with ten people, 11 people to start this incident to put out a fire. And that’s why I say the Air Guard and us work well together. They made some rescues of some people that were there. Obviously our hearts go out to the victims of this tragic accident.”
As the severity of the situation unraveled, surrounding crews were immediately called in and off duty airport firefighters too, like him. A state taskforce was activated.
“We’re a limited staff for a paid department. You can’t do it without the resources of the volunteer services around our town. They did a great job coming in and supporting us.”
While NTSB investigates what caused the crash, local responders can’t say much about what they witnessed. “I can say, you saw a lot that a normal person isn’t going to see. It’s not something you see every day and hopefully we don’t see that again.”
In the aftermath, the local firefighter union acknowledges long term effects on responding members are unpredictable from exposure of chemicals to their mental health.
In a statement, they wrote they “will be ensuring all members have the support they need.”
“It’s a tough job. It’s a job you sign up for and you train for a lot and you never think you’re going to come to this. It has and it’s put a lot of toll on a lot of firefighters.”
McDuell said the NTSB has hired local firefighters to stand watch during their investigation to make sure nothing rekindles.
He said investigators should be done removing what’s left of the crashed airplane Sunday.