Big chopper on ambulance duty

  • Oct. 13, 2008 8:00 p.m.

Islanders using the air ambulance over the next month will have a deluxe ride in a huge Sikorsky S-61 helicopter while the Bell 222 is being serviced. VIH Helicopters spokesperson Captain Alex Laird says the S-61, when used for passenger service, can hold 20 people. Outfitted as an ambulance, the chopper will seat five and take two stretchers. The Bell 222 could carry one stretcher and three medical staffers. “It’s a bit of overkill, but that’s what we could come up with to do the job,” says Cpt. Laird. Although two stretchers aren’t typically sent at once, the bigger helicopter may help accommodate family members. The Bell 222 is getting a refit that will allow it to continue serving the northwest as an air ambulance for another two years says Cpt. Laird. Cpt. Laird says the air ambulance helicopter serves communities as far afield as Prince Rupert, Smithers, Hartley Bay and Haida Gwaii, sometimes putting in 450 to 500 hours a year. The service uses airplanes as well, stationed in Prince George, Kelowna and Vancouver among others. The helicopter comes in especially handy getting patients to the Rupert airport on Digby Island. “To call out the ferry in the middle of the night can cost $30,000,” he says.

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