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Winch rescue garners support

Patrick Nicol (from left), with the Regional District of North Okanagan, Murray Smith, of Vernon Rotary, Cheryl Schmidt, Kalamalka Rotary, and Dominik Dlouhy (right), of Silver Star Rotary, donate $42,500 to Don Blakely, a director with Vernon Search and Rescue, for its helicopter winching system pilot project. - Lisa Vander Velde/Morning Star
Patrick Nicol (from left), with the Regional District of North Okanagan, Murray Smith, of Vernon Rotary, Cheryl Schmidt, Kalamalka Rotary, and Dominik Dlouhy (right), of Silver Star Rotary, donate $42,500 to Don Blakely, a director with Vernon Search and Rescue, for its helicopter winching system pilot project.
— image credit: Lisa Vander Velde/Morning Star

A major breakthrough in helping lost and injured people could soon take flight.

Vernon Search and Rescue has the $60,000 in place for its helicopter winch rescue program.

“This method is used by the Canadian military, the coast guard and the Ministry of Forests for firefighting,” said Don Blakely, VSAR director.

“We want to be the first Search and Rescue unit in Canada to do this.”

The Regional District of North Okanagan provided $20,000 Saturday.

“They are a fantastic volunteer group and they serve all residents,” said Patrick Nicol, RDNO chairperson, of VSAR.

Another $7,500 came from Vernon Rotary, $10,000 from Kalamalka Rotary and $5,000 from Silver Star Rotary.

The Community Foundation of the North Okanagan previously donated $7,500 and SAR has  come up with $10,000.

The money will go towards equipment and training.

Presently, aerial rescues see people dangled under a helicopter by a line, while the new program uses a winch to lower a rescuer and then they and the lost or injured person are raised up to inside the helicopter.

“It’s safer and quicker,” said Blakely.

“We can have better patient outcomes because instead of landing a patient and then putting them into ground transportation, they can fly directly to the hospital.”

It’s anticipated the winch program could be used seven   to nine times a year in the North Okanagan.

“Once we get our legs under us, we could expand it into surrounding SAR units,” said Blakely.

However, the program is on hold until approval comes from Emergency Management B.C., a government agency.

“We’re being told it’s a new initiative and they are giving us questions to answer,” said Blakely.

 

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