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Police, firefighters train for emergencies on new airport TRAX line

Published: Friday, Feb. 22 2013 5:55 p.m. MST

Salt Lake firefighters, police and the Utah Transit Authority perform a training exercise involving a train vs. pedestrian incident at the North Temple viaduct in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — While the Utah Transit Authority prepares to open a new TRAX line from downtown Salt Lake City to the airport with tests and drills, police and firefighters are doing the same thing. 

“We want to make sure that before it opens up and goes in service and is actually running up and down the streets daily, that we’re ready to go in case there is an accident involving a pedestrian or a car,” Salt Lake Fire Capt. Kyle Lavender said.

Salt Lake City fire, police, and UTA officers converged on the North Temple viaduct for training Friday, where after some sort of altercation, a man — in this case a mannequin named "Joe" — was pushed in front of an oncoming train.

Rescuing Joe was a complicated and dangerous operation that required a lot of work between several departments.

“It’s a very large and heavy piece of equipment, takes a lot of specialized training and equipment to be able to get people out from under a train like this,” Lavender explained.

While rescuers worked to lift the train car up to get the mannequin out, police officers were handling another part of the scenario. They were asking “Bob” what he had witnessed.

Ultimately, the exercise was a success and “Joe” the mannequin survived.

Those involved in the training exercises agreed that the rescue operations help prepare them to better respond to real emergencies in an appropriate and timely manner.

“The training is going to help us and hopefully help make a bad situation better and get people to the help they need,” Lavender said.

So far this year there have been a handful of accidents involving TRAX trains and vehicles or pedestrian.

On Jan. 28, a pedestrian was rescued from underneath a TRAX train near 2100 S. 200 West. Just like Friday’s drill, the train had to be lifted to free the injured man.

Three recent incidents have involved drivers accidentally or intentionally driving in front of a train after the warning arms went down, according to UTA.

On Jan. 9, an 83-year-old man was injured when he drove around the crossing arms at 6100 South and 300 West. A 57-year-old man died in the hospital after a TRAX train struck his car that was on the tracks on Feb. 6 at 2950 S. 200 West; and on Feb. 19 a driver was injured when he turned into the path of a TRAX train near 5900 South and 300 West.

All the people involved in the drill know that accidents will happen. In a few weeks, the traffic situation on North Temple will change dramatically.

“We're concerned that people are not going to be familiar with these new routes and not going to be used to looking for them,” Lavender said, “and we just want people to take a look at their surroundings and notice that they are changing and that there are some hazards that you need to be aware of.”

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc 

E-mail: kmccord@ksl.com

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