The Norman Township Fire Department’s Assistant Chief Dennis Jolicoeur and Medical First Responder Larry Waligorski traveled to Neoteric’s headquarters on the day before Easter to take delivery of their new craft and complete their hands-on flight training and maintenance certification. The funding for the department’s rescue hovercraft was provided by a grant.
From the left: Instructor Chris Fitzgerald, Medical First Responder Larry Waligorski, Assistant Chief Dennis Jolicoeur and Instructor Steve Stafford prepare to launch two craft on the Wabash River for the first training session.
A volunteer on call department, the Norman Township Fire Department in Wellston, MI provides fire protection and ambulance service to an 80 sq. mile area in Michigan’s Manistee County.
Waligorski explains the department’s need for a hovercraft: “We perform water and ice rescues on the rapidly running, narrow, difficult to access Pine River, with rocks, downed trees and steep banks.”
The Pine River is considered the premier paddle sports venue in the Midwest; it attracts canoers, kayakers, rafters and fishermen from across the nation year-round. The first responders say that one asset of the hovercraft will be to replace, “ice rescues done the old fashioned way: with rope and ice rescue suits.”
Instructor Chris Fitzgerald briefs Jolicoeur and Waligorski and walks them through a preflight inspection of their new hovercraft.
The department had considered purchasing a jet boat, but the problems with that rescue vehicle were quickly made apparent when, during a company demo, rocks in the river caused the jet boat to break down.
After discovering Neoteric Hovercraft online, Norman Township Fire Department personnel visited the Muskegon, Michigan Fire Department, “who had great things to say about their Neoteric craft,” says Jolicoeur.
Steve League, Fire Chief of the North Muskegon Fire Department recently told Neoteric, “Both the North Muskegon and Muskegon Fire Departments use hovercraft for their ice rescue operations. The hovercraft have saved more lives than our engines have. Since 1985, 255 people have been rescued or removed from Muskegon area lakes using hovercraft. 50% would have drowned not having the hovercraft as a safe rescue tool.”
|Larry Waligorski (left) begins his hands-on pilot training as instructor Steve Stafford (right) demonstrates the operation of the hovercraft's controls and how to achieve the proper trim.|
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