Reno Fire Chief Recalls Tragic Air Show Crash

Fire Chief Michael Hernandez recalled the horrific scene, but more importantly, the way his firefighters and those from mutual aid departments worked as a team.


SAN DIEGO -- On Sept. 16, 2011, Reno firefighters and crews from neighboring departments were found themselves in a mass casualty incident.

Coverage of Firehouse World 2012

Within minutes after a plane crashed into the crowd at an air show, triage areas were established. Crews joined efforts to treat the injured, explained Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez.

The chief recalled the horrific scene that sunny day, but more importantly, the way his firefighters and those from mutual aid departments worked as a team.

Hernandez outlined the effort and showed clips of the crash that killed 11 and injured 70 during the keynote address Tuesday at Firehouse World.

"We were prepared because we had recently conducted a drill that we called ‘a bad day at the races.' All the crews involved participated. People knew what they had to do."

Reno Fire Logistics Officer Kenny DeBerg said it's a sight he'll never forget.

"I was in a tower nearby, and I saw the plane as it barrel rolled, and crashed right into the crowd. There was no warning. It happened really, really fast," DeBerg recalled during an interview on Monday.

The standby crews at the airport immediately responded, and the call went out for additional ambulances. "Within 15 seconds, fire or rescue people were touching patients," DeBerg added.

With only one way in and out of the airport, Hernandez said it was imperative that police keep those open. It's something they had gone over in the drill.

For any serious incident, the patient has a best chance of survival if they reach the appropriate medical facility within an hour, referred to as "The Golden Hour." On that day, 58 patients were transported within 62 minutes.

The chief said he can't say enough about REMSA, which handles EMS for Reno, and the other crews involved with patient care.