By Andrea Lannom
Charleston Daily Mail
BECKLEY, W.Va.–Dust filled the air and the sound of drills rang through the dimly lit Memorial Tunnel as emergency crews worked to pull out mannequins trapped in several different ways.
“Carry him, carry him!” yelled one responder with the South Carolina Urban Search and Rescue Task Force as another worked to pull a 150-pound mannequin out of an elevator shaft.
Although this was the first time this South Carolina group has trained at the former highway tunnel, they’re not the first.
In its former life, the two-lane tunnel transported drivers traveling from Beckley to Charleston. It was closed to traffic in 1988, and the Federal Highways Administration modified it to conduct a fire ventilation test program, according to a brochure on the tunnel.
The tunnel went on to serve as storage for the West Virginia Turnpike and finally a training facility following the West Virginia Parkways Authority’s decision to lease the tunnel to the West Virginia National Guard.
Lt. Col. Melissa Shade, with the West Virginia Air National Guard, explained military units, National Guard members, first responders and local law enforcement all visit the tunnel, located off Interstate 64 near Standard.