First responders describe scene immediately after plane crash

First responders on the scene of the plane crash in McDuffie County on Wednesday night. (WRDW-TV)
First responders on the scene of the plane crash in McDuffie County on Wednesday night. (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013

MCDUFFIE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- Around 45 first responders from all different agencies were at the crash scene Wednesday night, and many of them were there until early Thursday morning.

The crash site back in the woods behind the Miliken plant has only been seen by rescue crews and investigators.

"You could not tell it was a plane," described Stephen Sewell, assistant fire chief for McDuffie County. "It was so many smaller pieces that you had to look close to tell what was there."

He was one of the first on the scene Wednesday night.

"I've never seen a plane crash with this magnitude. That's really the first time we've seen that," he said.

He's worked with McDuffie County fire for 28 years.

"We pretty much try to treat it like any other scene," Sewell said. "We get in, do what needs to be done, secure the scene, get the victims, the patients out, put the fires out and then we just go one with the steps that need to be taken care of."

Getting the patients out was much more difficult because of the heavily-wooded area around the crash site. Ambulances and fire trucks couldn't get back to it and cars got stuck, so they used four-wheelers and pickup trucks.

"The patient that was brought out, we had to use a pickup truck once he was immobilized," Sewell said. "We got him in the truck with the paramedics and EMTs, and were able to get him out with a four-wheel drive truck out to the ambulance."

Five people died in the crash and one is still in critical condition.

"If you let it dwell too much, and a lot of people say that's hard-hearted, but it's not really hard-hearted. If you dwell on it too much, you won't be able to help somebody in the future because you have gotten too involved in it yourself," Sewell said.

But he says every day it reminds him how precious life is.

"No one is guaranteed tomorrow or the next day, so enjoy every day like it's your last."

They have a fire station and truck at the airport. Those guys were able to get there quickly and Sewell says they go through training at Augusta Regional to be airport firefighters so they are ready for these situations.

He says a plane crash is different than others because you're dealing with flammable liquids, electrical systems and not necessarily knowing what type of plane it is with so many different makes and models.

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