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June 12, 2014

Fortunately, it was only a drill

GREENVILLE — Multiple law enforcement agencies and emergency medical services units descended upon the campuses of Boles Independent School District Wednesday afternoon, for what turned out to be a mass casualty incident.

A female suspect had thrown an explosive device into the district’s gymnasium, then proceeded through the halls of the high school shooting students and administrators at random, before taking her own life.

In the end, there were 10 fatalities and 65 people who had been injured, 20 of whom were critically wounded.

Fortunately, it was only a drill. But Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said the training exercise was an important tool in helping train officers,  medical personnel and school district officials in dealing with a situation which has become all too common in today’s world.

“We learned several things from this training that I believe will be quite helpful in the event of the real thing,” Meeks said. ,”As far as I know, this is the first drill of this magnitude here in Hunt County involving so many different emergency agencies. I would say that this was a very successful and valuable training event for everyone involved.”

The scenario unfolded just as if it would have in real life. The Hunt County Sheriff’s Office received a call of an explosion at 1:09 p.m. Wednesday at the Boles ISD campus, followed by reports of a person with at least one gun. Deputies were dispatched along with the Quinlan Police Department, the West Tawakoni Police Department, Constable Kent Layton’s office, Constable Terry Jones’s office and the Greenville Police Department.

FM 2101 was closed to traffic at the intersection of State Highway 34, as the law enforcement personnel arrived. Multiple teams began sweeping the campuses, door by door. Upon entering the high school, they were greeted by the bodies of students and faculty members, many of whom were crying out in pain.

Boles ISD Superintendent Graham Sweeney helped direct the officers as he checked on survivors.

“It is bizarre to watch this,” Sweeney said. “But we volunteered to go through it, so that we’d know what to expect, and they would know who we are, in the event of the real thing.”

Sweeney said the Boles ISD was assisted by the efforts of 100 volunteers in staging the incident.

“About 80 of those were students,” Sweeney said. “Some also came from the Quinlan ISD and from the Job Corps in McKinney.”

Eventually officers found the suspect, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in an elevator at the high school. Once the scene had been secured, ambulances from both American Medical Response (AMR) in Hunt County and Rockwall County Emergency Medical Services responded and began treating the wounded.

School buses were also called in to transfer the injured. A triage center was established at the Cash Fire Department and the Red Cross was set up at the Harvest Bible Church for the families of the victims.

A total of 40 victims were taken to area hospitals, 20 victims were taken to the triage center and two victims were transported by air ambulance to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

The Sabine Valley Amateur Radio Association was set up in the parking lot of the school, helping to relay information between the various agencies involved with the exercise.

“I want to thank Hunt Regional Healthcare, AMR, all volunteer fire departments that participated, the Red Cross, Harvest Bible Church, TXDOT who provided signage along Highway 34 and all the agencies that participated in this training exercise,” Meeks said. “I especially want to thank Superintendent Graham Sweeney and the Board of Directors of Boles I.S.D. for allowing us to use their facilities for such an important training exercise.”

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