Jan 10, 2017
Care During Chaos

While on a training trip, the University of Vermont women’s swimming and diving team was at the Fort Lauderdale airport when a shooter opened fire in an adjacent terminal. The team didn’t see or hear the shooting, but an emergency evacuation took place.

“We hear screams from the other end of our terminal down by security, and we hear ‘get down, get down, get down,’ and we see a mad stampede,” Head Coach Gerry Cournoyer told the Burlington Free Press.

Although everything happened fast—Cournoyer estimates less than two minutes—the team acted with clarity. In the evacuation, everyone was rushed out to the tarmac.

“If someone fell, they’d pick them up. If there was a child that was running by themselves, the girls grabbed them, pulled them into us, making sure that child was not alone,” Cournoyer told NBC5. “Obviously they were scared. I mean we saw a lot of that stuff. My women were truly amazing. I could not have been more thankful to have them with us, especially because my own two kids were with us as well.”  

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Three of the student-athletes were injured in the rush. One was treated at the hospital for a broken foot and the other two were treated by a UVM athletic trainer who was accompanying the team. 

UVM Athletic Director Jeff Schulman praised the leadership of Cournoyer and the rest of the staff during the ordeal. He issued the following statement on Saturday:

“On behalf of the UVM athletic department, I’d like to thank everyone for their concern and support of our swimming & diving team that was in the Fort Lauderdale airport yesterday at the time of the shooting incident. 

While our students, coaches and staff were not in the terminal where the shooting occurred, the scene in their terminal became quite unsettled and resulted in a hurried and chaotic evacuation. During the evacuation, three of our athletes were injured. One was treated at the hospital for a broken foot and the other two were treated by a UVM athletic trainer who is accompanying the team. 


After being evacuated from their terminal, the team was moved to several different holding areas around the airport grounds. They were finally “released” around 8 p.m. and made it to their hotel at about 9 p.m. 


The team is booked on a flight for early Sunday morning through the New York area and will then bus to Burlington. This was the first available flight out of Florida for this size group and it is very important to us that they not be split up on various itineraries. 


I’ve been in regular contact with our head coach, Gerry Cournoyer, who along with his three assistant coaches and our athletic trainer have done an amazing job of leading and caring for our students through a very traumatic experience. We have staff from Counseling and Psychiatry Services (CAPS) on call and are prepared to support the team and individual students in whatever ways are needed.


Thank you again for all of your concern”

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