Biohazard Management in the Difficult Water Environment: A Comparison of the 1972 L1011 and the 1996 DC-9 Accidents in the Florida Everglades
Ronald W. Hansrote, M.D.
Steven J. H. Veronneau, M.D., M.S.
Jerry R. Hordinsky, M.D., M.P.H.
R. W.Hansrote, S.J.H.Veronneau. Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, P.O. Box 25082, Oklahoma City, OK, 73125-5066.
Biohazard management at accident sites was virtually non-existent until recent years. The 1996 ValuJet DC-9 accident occurred within 10 miles of the 1972 Eastern Airlines L1011 accident site in the Florida Everglades. The biohazards were similar except for the threat of HIV. This study compared the environmental and bio-hazards, and medical injury complications between the two accidents.
Use was made of on-scene observations for the DC-9 mishap, and by reviewing CAMI records of the medical complications of surviving injured aircraft occupants and accident investigators from the L1011 accident, an evaluation of the usefulness of current biohazard management practices was performed along with the use of local and military resources in the decontamination and recovery process. In-depth environmental and biohazard briefings were made prior to all personnel entering the accident site. Important personnel health and safety guidelines were developed and tailored to the accident site's peculiarities.
The modern OSHA-required biohazard procedures were implemented and monitored in the DC-9 accident and there were no serious and only minor biohazard injuries or medical complications occurring in the investigation and recovery efforts. In contrast there were many serious injuries in the 1972 Eastern L1011 accident to both survivors of the crash and rescue/ investigation personnel. The United States Air Force Reserve, 482nd Air Wing, from Homestead AFRB provided excellent support in the decontamination process with their on-scene deployment of the Nuclear Bacteriological Chemical Warfare Unit. Metro-Dade Public Safety provided accident site security, transportation, and personnel facilities. The Florida Game, Fish, and Wildlife Division and the Marine and Highway Patrol augmented transportation and site security.
Utilization of the biohazard procedures in 1996 compared to 1972 prevented many serious injuries and highlights the importance of being prepared to deal with on-scene hazards related to aircraft accident rescue and investigation.