Emergency services in the dark as they rush to plane 'ditching'

Queenstown Airport's biennial full-scale emergency training exercise kicked off with wailing sirens, flashing lights and an imaginary splash-down last night, as rescuers reacted to a "lake landing" scenario.

The exercise involved multiple agencies, including police, fire service, coastguard and Red Cross, as well as Queenstown Lakes District Council emergency staff and the Queenstown harbourmaster team.

Yesterday morning, airport staff said they had not been made aware of any particular plans for the drill, which would ensure everyone involved would be able to treat it like a real rescue.

Queenstown harbourmaster Marty Black confirmed he was under the "open brief" plan.

"Things like this work better if those involved don't know too much about what might actually happen, that way we can treat it like something that has just happened and everyone will get the most out of it," he said.

The exercise started with fire sirens blaring at 5.35pm and emergency services gathering at Frankton Marina.

The scenario involved a passenger plane "ditching" in the Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu with 15 people on board, along with a cargo containing dangerous goods.

The 15 "victims" of the plane crash were played by Queenstown locals.

Fishing guide Craig Hind said he was glad to volunteer for the exercise, but was disappointed he had been declared "dead" on arrival at the marina.

Queenstown Airport Corporation chief executive officer Scott Paterson said the emergency-training exercise occurred every two years, with different scenarios chosen each time.

The Southland Times