NY chief reflects on Continental crash response at FDIC

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By Jamie Thompson
FireRescue1 Editor

Photo Jamie Thompson
Chief Case delivers a presentation at a session.
Related Resources:
 FDIC full coverage page
 NY chief describes response to plane crash
 Slideshow: Continental Flight 3407 crash
INDIANAPOLIS — As chief of a small volunteer fire department, David Case probably never envisioned hosting a session in front of hundreds of people at FDIC opening day.

But until two months ago, he would certainly never have imagined he'd be leading the response to a plane crash in a peaceful suburban street near his fire hall.

"The guys had no time at all to prepare for this," Chief Case said. "But when the engine pulled up, training kicked in. Our guys were trained to know, 'Big fire, big lines.'"

All 49 people aboard Continental Connection Flight 3407 — as well as one person on the ground — died in the crash in Clarence Center in New York.

During the session at FDIC in Indianapolis Wednesday, Chief Case described his department's response and the lessons it learned.

Chief Case got the initial call from dispatch that the plane had gone down while at home, and he admitted his first reaction was complete shock.

"What was going through my mind? To be honest, it was holy shit," he said.

"I said to my wife, 'What did he say? A plane crash, a house on fire?'"

Minutes later, Chief Case was on the scene to establish incident command with Tim Norris, assistant to the chief.

"We tried to clean away some debris so we could get a piece of apparatus through, but it was never going to happen," Chief Case said.

Crews were initially instructed to perform search and rescue operations, Chief Case said, looking at neighboring roofs, back yards and even swimming pools.

"It was to see if anyone had got blown away from the plane," he said. "But it was obviously to no avail."

Once he realized there were no survivors, Chief Case said the focus of the response switched to getting the fire knocked down as quickly as possible.

Looking back on the night, Chief Case said it showed how the use of the incident command system is critical in such situations.

"In situations like this, you need to delegate your authority and also maintain your involvement with those areas that you have delegated," he said.

From an operation standpoint, the response was a success, Chief Case told the session.

"There were no conflicts with the state, the local or even the federal level. The county came in and said, 'Chief, what do you need?'"

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