Squad Captain Marty Shelton said the session had begun at 9 a.m. but was halted at about 3:30 p.m. by an automobile accident on Interstate 81 as rescue workers were meeting with a Wings Air Rescue helicopter crew.
The Wings crew had planned to take rescue workers for demonstration rides aboard their aircraft.
Instead, Rescue Squad members responded to an emergency call involving a car that had left the roadway and rolled over several times on Interstate 81 at Exit 23.
They rushed to assist Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services personnel after being informed by Greene County 9-1-1 that a driver was believed to be trapped in the heavily damaged car.
I-81 Accident Scene
On arrival, however, squad members were able to open the driver's door without using any rescue tools, according to Shelton, and only assisted EMS personnel with "packaging" the 21-year-old North Carolina woman for transport by ambulance to
Takoma Adventist Hospital.
A truck driver who witnessed the accident said at the scene on Saturday afternoon that the gold-colored Mazda Protege had dropped off the left side of the roadway while traveling south on I-81. He said the driver apparently lost control of the car when she attempted to get back onto the roadway.
The car rolled over several times before coming to a stop on its wheels in the median of the divided highway.
Rescue workers said the woman had been wearing a seat belt but that the car's driver's-side air bag had not deployed.
The victim, whose name was not available, was not believed to have been seriously injured.
The training session had begun with classroom work on rescue procedures and interaction with other emergency agencies, Shelton said. The morning session also included instruction by Greeneville Light & Power System employees about how to conduct rescue operations safely around downed power lines.
The afternoon included hands-on training in the use of hydraulic rescue tools. This training was provided by Charles Wynn of Wynn Fire & Rescue Equipment of Woodbine, Ky.
Wynn showed the rescue workers in training how to use the powerful hydraulic rescue tools to open jammed doors and cut away the roofs of vehicles damaged in traffic crashes.
One exercise involved using the rescue tools to cut "third doors" in two-door cars to facilitate the removal of injured rear-seat passengers.
Jesse Sweet, co-owner of a Wynne's store in Mosheim, said the firm represents 82
different manufacturers of rescue equipment and protective clothing.
Also, the training session focused on the crew of a Wings Air Rescue helicopter that landed its aircraft on the lawn behind the Rescue Squad headquarters on West Church Street.
Pilot Don Savage, Paramedic Corey Pittman and Flight Nurse John Smith explained landing-zone safety procedures to the rescue workers.
Savage said the Wings crews, who are based at the Johnson City Medical Center, like working with Greene County rescue workers. "We appreciate Greene County," he said. "You are top-notch professionals at setting up landing zones."
But Savage noted that even professionals could get into serious trouble around the spinning rotor-blades of helicopters.
Recently, he noted, a hospital security guard, who had worked around helicopters for years, was killed when he walked into the spinning tail rotor of a helicopter while it was off-loading a patient at his hospital.
Savage stressed that rescue workers should never approach a landing helicopter until asked to do so by crew members. Even after being motioned to approach, he said, rescue workers should be sure to duck and approach only from the front of the helicopter because of the danger from spinning rotor blades that are invisible to the naked eye.
He said Rescue Squad members and volunteer firefighters can assist the helicopter crew in making a safe landing by selecting landing zones that are as free as possible of obstacles and are at least 80 feet square during daylight hours or at least 100 feet square at night.
Pittman said that Greene County is the leading locality in Wings' seven-state service area in terms of "on scene" calls; that is, calls in which the helicopter flies directly to an accident scene to pick up a patient, rather than to a medical facility.
"A lot of tragedies happen here," he said.