Tracheal intubation (ETI) is considered the method of choice for securing the airway and for providing effective ventilation during cardiac arrest. However, ETI requires skills which are difficult to maintain especially if practised infrequently. The laryngeal tube (LT) has been successfully tested and used in anaesthesia and in simulated cardiac arrest in manikins. To compare the initiation and success of ventilation with the LT, ETI and bag-valve mask (BVM) in a cardiac arrest scenario, 60 fire-fighter emergency medical technician (EMT) students formed teams of two rescuers at random and were allocated to use these devices. We found that the teams using the LT were able to initiate ventilation more rapidly than those performing ETI (P < 0.0001). The LT and ETI provided equal minute volumes of ventilation, which was significantly higher than that delivered with the BVM (P < 0.0001). Our data suggest that the LT may enable airway control more rapidly and as effectively as ETI, and compared to BVM, may provide better minute ventilation when used by inexperienced personnel.