By Alex DeMetrick

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — First responders in Howard County spent Tuesday practicing a unique rescue operation — dangling over a 200 foot drop.

The scenario: stepping off the Route 70 Bridge over the Patapsco River to reach people trapped beneath the bridge in the bucket of what’s called a snooper truck.

According to Fire Battalion Chief Stephen Hardesty, “once he goes over the edge he’s all by himself. There’s not a whole lot of safety net built in. So we have to consistently be thinking about what’s happening as he’s going down onto the boom of the truck and underneath the bridge.”

Then it’s just a matter of getting out of the bucket and lowering down 200 feet.

It’s what Howard County Fire and Rescue’s Special Operations team does.

“You have the confidence in the people that you work with, so it’s easy as pie,” said team member Brad Klukas.

This drill is not made-up. It’s based on an actual accident. It happened this past June on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, when a team of engineers was working in the bucket of a snooper truck.

“A tractor trailer ran into the truck and it caught on fire and stranded three engineers in the bucket underneath the bridge,” said Hardesty.

The men were lowered by ropes to boats.

Joe Chalk was one of them.

“[It was] little hairy,” Chalk said. “I was the third guy out so i got to see what was going on with the first two individuals, and that made it not too nerve wracking.”

Those involved in the real rescue back in June offered their experience in staging this drill.

“[We’re] partnering with them so that they can have their first responders respond in a timely manner and be efficient about it,” Chalk said.

And get themselves and others safely to the ground.

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