Questions raised about Gander chopper availability
NDP MHA George Murphy says search and rescue situation sets a dangerous precedent
Posted: Jul 6, 2012 1:10 PM NT
Last Updated: Jul 6, 2012 4:35 PM NT
Concerns are being raised after a Cougar helicopter was called to airlift an injured man Thursday when the military said it had no Cormorant available in Gander.
The three search and rescue Cormorants at 103 Search and Rescue Squadron were out of service at the time of the incident.
“It’s a dangerous precedent that they're setting by having a private company do SAR for us when we have our own Canadian Armed Forces out here not properly armed to do the job,” NDP MHA George Murphy said.
The priority for military search assets is air and sea rescues. But federal officials can agree to assist in land searches.Military Cormorant helicopters are based in Gander. (CBC)
Murphy questioned what would have happened if an emergency had developed at sea during the time all Gander Cormorants were out of service.
"If the Cougar helicopter was tasked yesterday to do its own job, we would not have had anything in this province, in Newfoundland and Labrador, besides a couple of Griffons in Labrador, to respond to anything that would have been of a crisis nature anywhere else in the province,” Murphy said.
In Thursday’s incident, a 42-year-old Grand Falls-Windsor man fell down a ravine near the dam on the Exploits River, breaking a leg. Rescuers later rappelled down the embankment to provide first aid.
Provincial officials initially called the military for help.
No Cormorants were available from Gander; the standby chopper suffered engine trouble for a few hours.
The feds offered to fly in a Cormorant from Greenwood, N.S., or drive in search and rescue technicians from Gander. That’s about an hour journey by car.
Provincial officials decided the Cougar helicopter could respond the fastest.
It was in the air within an hour of the emergency call.
Cougar has a dedicated search and rescue chopper for the oil industry, and got permission from those companies to dispatch the helicopter to Grand Falls-Windsor.
The military says the Gander Cormorant was back in service by Thursday night.
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