Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth collapses after being struck by a ferry - during live-action simulation

FOLLOWING the collapse of Spinnaker Tower, medical staff were sadly unable to save the life of Francesca McCrohon – but the Southsea resident says she still had a fantastic afternoon.

Thankfully for Francesca, her injuries were the result of an afternoon with make-up artists, as she and other actors from across the city took part in a major incident simulation to train medical students from the University of Portsmouth.

SIMEX, which is run by The Simex Series Trust and the university, is holding a series of live action crisis scenarios in the city and Fort Widley until Friday, preparing the next generation of frontline medical staff.

Yesterday’s disaster simulation was based around Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth collapsing after being struck by a ferry, inspired by a CGI mock-up of the catastrophe created by a former university student.

Nurses and doctors treating a casualty at the makeshift hospital at St Andrews Court, Portsmouth Picture: Habibur Rahman

Inside a mock-ward at St Andrew’s Court, in St Michael’s Road, dozens of University of Portsmouth students and Queen Alexandra Hospital staff were tasked with managing a constant stream of patients with injuries ranging from major haemorrhages to broken bones.

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For second year mental health nursing student Finn Cullinan, the experience has been invaluable.

The 28-year-old said: ‘It feels really realistic with all the make-up and the handovers we get. It’s real time, real speed.

Disaster simulations will be running across the city until the end of the week. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘It’s really immersive – it’s quite the experience you get to do.’

Southsea-based actor Francesca said it was her first time playing a dead body – providing an emotionally challenging experience for students as her role cast her as a heavily pregnant woman who required an emergency C-section.

The 37-year-old said: ‘I have just had a post-mortem C-section – this morning I had a head injury.

‘It was a strange experience. The moment the gurney came in, there were just voices, my head was being held – it felt quite dramatic and it was quite emotional as well.

Pictured: An actor playing a pregnant woman being treated at the makeshift hospital at St Andrews Court, Portsmouth Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘I’m always so impressed by the students, it gives me a lot of confidence about the future of nursing.

‘It’s a great thing to do, the simulation.

She added: ‘It’s been quite crazy here today. I am just so impressed with everyone here, they have treated all the patients with dignity and care and respect.

‘It sounds bizarre but it’s a lot of fun actually. It’s a really amazing experience.’

Pictured: A casualty arriving at the makeshift hospital at St Andrews Court, Portsmouth Picture: Habibur Rahman

This year’s event has already received excellent feedback from student participants, according to co-ordinator Melanie Tanner, a senior teaching fellow at the university and a registered nurse of more than 20 years.

She said: ‘We think overall it’s gone really well – I’ve already had some feedback from student nurses this morning who have absolutely loved the event and feel they have learned key skills.’

This year’s event marks the 10th year of the simulations in the city, with more than 2,000 people taking part in the world’s largest international disaster simulation in Portsmouth in 2019.

Today and Thursday, the student nurses will support a team from the University’s Crisis and Disaster Management course undertaking a number of scenarios based on a refugee incident at other exercise sites around Portsmouth.

This part of the disaster simulation will be based around a major earthquake and volcanic eruption that results in a severe humanitarian disaster including severe flooding, environmental pollution, collapsed buildings and displacement of people.

Pictured: Actor, Francrssa Crohon at the makeshift hospital at St Andrews Court, Portsmouth Picture: Habibur Rahman