Training exercise Thursday will simulate ferry running aground off Peaks Island

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Sep. 29—Emergency responders in Greater Portland will participate in a full-scale training exercise Thursday that will simulate a Casco Bay Lines ferry running aground.

The event, sponsored by Casco Bay Emergency Response Group, will take place at Pumpkin Knob off Peaks Island, and will also feature an evacuation of passengers from the "disabled" vessel.

Robb Couture, EMS coordinator for the South Portland Fire Department, said he hasn't seen an exercise of this magnitude on the water.

"There will actually be patients who will be transferred vessel to vessel (some by litter) and will be transported to docks in Portland," Couture said in a media advisory. "Although no victims will be in the water, the Coast Guard will be conducting grid searches and will attempt to locate balloon 'victims.'"

The exercise is meant to evaluate operational communications, emergency medical services, inter-agency coordination and critical transportation. More than two dozen local, county, state and federal organizations will take part.

Although rare, incidents involving ferries do occur. In 2010, a Casco Bay Lines ferry carrying members of a wedding party ran aground near Basket Island. No one was injured.

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