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Okanagan’s Air Rescue One launches fundraiser to buy its own helicopter winch

Air Rescue One uses a heli winch to conduct rescues up and down the valley
The Vernon Search and Rescue’s heli-winch team was called to assist in the rescue of two Shuswap backcountry sledders Friday, April 2, 2021. (VSAR photo)

Vernon’s Air Rescue One has launched a fundraising campaign to purchase equipment that will aid its rescue missions in the Thompson-Okanagan backcountry.

The Air Rescue One Heli Winch Society is looking to raise $400,000 from now until the end of June 2022 to purchase its own winch for the Air Rescue One program.

A winch is a hoist used to lift stranded and injured people to safety during search and rescue calls.

Air Rescue One is partnered with search and rescue organizations throughout the valley and springs into action when they’re in need of a helicopter and an advanced pre-medical care team. The team is made up of emergency personnel, ALS paramedics, doctors, nurses and fire rescue personnel who volunteer their time and expertise.

The Air Rescue One program has operated in the Thompson-Okanagan region for the past seven years, but it relies on a third-party supplier for its winch. The society says on average, three rescue calls a week are missed because a winch is not available.

“Being able to have a dedicated winch for the team is a game-changer for the region that we serve,” said Steve Oliver, board president for Air Rescue One.

“We are called upon for individuals facing life and death because of a recreational accident, major catastrophes such as flooding and fires where mass evacuations and medical care go together, extreme terrain rescues and when the 911 system and its dispatched resources need support. We’re here to be another resource to our beleaguered healthcare system, its people and its trauma centres and hospitals.”

Vernon Paralympian Josh Dueck has stepped up to join the campaign. Local landscaping firm Just Rocks Landscaping has started off the funding with a $30,000 pledge, and the Vernon Doctors Hockey Tournament has also contributed $20,000.

Donations can be made through the society’s website,, or by contacting the society at

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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