County Emergency Operations Coordinator talks about first responders’ plane crash response time

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board anticipate the investigation will last for at least a year. First responders who rushed to the scene are talking about how things went.

Many around here have experience working plane crashes. How was this crash different? It all comes down to the initial communication.

Fire responders talk to each other using radios. A radio is their lifeline. Madison County’s Emergency Operations Coordinator told WHNT News 19 what first came across scanners is not what first responders saw at the airport.

Jim Pockrus is a supervisor with the Madison County EMA. You could call his office the nerve center for the county.

“We do any kind of response to disasters man-made or weather,” said Pockrus.

A plane crash at the Huntsville International Airport killed three people. But at first, no one thought the Westwind II aircraft crashed.

The first call went out as an ‘alert two’ meaning an aircraft needs assistance. A second call, a few minutes later, went out as an ‘alert three.’

“We were somewhat confused at that point because we never, as long as I`ve been here, had that,” added Pockrus.

Pockrus, who’s been in emergency management 15 years, says an ‘alert three’ means an aircraft has crashed.

“Everyone responded very well. We were there probably within 20 minutes,” added Pockrus.

Workers with the EMA were able to set-up a work station for all first responders to do their jobs.