Crews scour lake bed for missing plane during exercise

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — As the world continues to watch the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, search and rescue crews closer to home are preparing for a similar scenario.

But large jets crashing into the ocean are fairly rare. Much more likely are small planes crash-landing in fields, creeks or lakes. First responders spent Friday simulating that scenario at Lake Bastrop.

“What we’ve learned is that we need to do it more often, because…everything doesn’t always go right,” said Cmdr. Brian Smallwood with the Texas Maritime Unit. “Sometimes we think if we put it on paper it’s going to go just as it was written, but that doesn’t always happen.”

Using information from witnesses, three divers from the Texas State Guard’s maritime regiment scour the water using sonar equipment. The lake runs just 13 feet deep, a far cry from the depths crews are encountering in their search for the Malaysian Airlines plane.

But the key to the this round of training involving more than 100 rescue workers is to make sure everyone meshes well, and knows each other’s strengths.

“We exercise together, we train together, so that when an incident occurs, we’re not all meeting each other for the first time,” said Greg Pyles with Texas Search and Rescue.

But making sure the search effort is successful requires the right people.

“It takes a person with a lot of commitment to achieve the skill level,” Pyles said, “(and to) commit to the training and the time away from family, and their paying jobs.”

That rescue training involves several agencies and will continue through Sunday.

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