Rescue squad gets rare chance to conduct rescue training on Blatnik Bridge (with video)
Putting in hours of training comes with the territory for the volunteers on the St. Louis County Rescue Squad's high-level rope rescue team. But doing that training atop the Blatnik Bridge while a 1,000-foot freighter glides by below -- that's so...
Putting in hours of training comes with the territory for the volunteers on the St. Louis County Rescue Squad's high-level rope rescue team.
But doing that training atop the Blatnik Bridge while a 1,000-foot freighter glides by below -- that's something new.
Thanks to construction on the bridge that has closed the northbound lanes this summer, and with the cooperation of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, a dozen members of the Rescue Squad wrapped up a week of training with simulated rescues staged from the interstate span. During the training, the Mesabi Miner passed beneath the bridge with a cargo of coal.
"This is phenomenal," Rescue Squad Lt. Rick Slatten said on the bridge deck, about 130 feet above the water. "It's a very rare opportunity.
"MnDOT graciously allowed us access to the Blatnik, this lane under construction, so we took advantage of that and figured we'd finish up the week here. We threw Aaron (Albertson) over the side, simulating a person falling to the end of their safety tether, and Joe (Vidmar) went down with a litter and scooped him up, treated any simulated injuries and brought him back up."
It was the conclusion of 75 hours of instruction, starting with knots training and working up to practicing rescues at Palisade Head near Silver Bay on Friday and Saturday. And then, Sunday's three simulated rescues from the Blatnik.
"Everybody on the team, we've each had the opportunity to be the patient once, to be a rescuer at least once, and then there's all kinds of different roles that need to be played here -- edge attendants, belay people ... lots of roles, learning how to build these complex systems -- this one had a double offset on it to get out over the scaffolding, which is sharp metal, to keep from cutting the rope," Slatten said.
Slatten, who teaches at Lake Superior College and has been with the Rescue Squad for 33 years, said it's the first time they've trained atop the Blatnik or Bong bridges.
Nick Fleming, who was the rescuer in the second round of practice on Sunday, said the rare opportunity is a valuable one for the team.
"It's a unique experience of getting prepared for a possible scenario," said Fleming, who is facility manager at Vertical Endeavors in Canal Park. "You could have a worker who goes over the edge who needs picking off, and this enables us to train for it.
"We have an excellent team of volunteers, a wide range of skill sets. When you bring everyone together, you get a good team to pull off challenging situations."