First responders Gerry Haak (left) and Scot Sinclaire (center) from the Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue Society, Abbotsford, BC, Canada, have completed basic and advanced hovercraft pilot training courses at Neoteric Hovercraft with instructor Chris Fitzgerald (right).
Haak completed the basic Class III Hovercraft Pilot Training course; Sinclaire completed Advanced Hovercraft Pilot Training with an emphasis on night rescue operations. Steve Stafford of Project H.E.R.O. participated in the training, providing a standby rescue hovercraft as well as night vision binoculars and infrared cameras. Project H.E.R.O. is a non-profit group of first responders who own Neoteric Hovercraft and donate their search and rescue services in times of disaster.
Below, Scot Sinclaire attends to the drowning victim during night training exercises. Project H.E.R.O. member Nick Pridemore, a U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran from Bloomington, Indiana, played the role of the victim. Pridemore was repeatedly rescued from swift water and transported back to land in the hovercraft. Portraying a drowning victim who is close to exhaustion and unable to provide any assistance, Pridemore was lifted into the hovercraft each time by Haak while Sinclaire piloted the craft. Night vision binoculars were used to take photos in total darkness.
Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue Society is an all-volunteer organization who has owned a Neoteric Rescue Hovertrek™ for two years. Sinclaire explains the decision to purchase a Neoteric craft: "I'd researched hovercraft for 10 years. A lot of manufacturers are fly-by-nights, they come and go, but you need a company who will be there for you. A big seller was Neoteric's reversing capabilities - that's what Chris' hovercraft are known for. And it's great; with brakes you're able to control that hovercraft in an uncontrollable environment."
Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue Society works with other rescue teams in their area, providing assistance on mutual aid calls. The Fraser Valley is prone to inland flooding into farmlands and residential areas, primarily from the Fraser River. The river systems in the area are subject to rapid change due to glacial runoff and snow melts from the mountains.
The team owns a jet boat, but Sinclaire says, "The hovercraft gets us into areas that before we weren't able to reach, areas that our jet boat can't get into because we ingest debris into the impeller. And the hovercraft saves us a lot of time ... Christopher Cockerell invented the hovercraft and I think Chris Fitzgerald perfected it. The Hovertrek™ is a great little machine!"
Scot Sinclaire (left) and Gerry Haak in the Neoteric Hovercraft factory.