The Gladstone Public Safety Department, located on Lake Michigan’s Little Bay de Noc in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, provides both police and fire protection to the city of Gladstone. It also provides mutual aid to four other law enforcement agencies and twelve other fire departments in the area.
Delta County Search and Rescue in Escanaba, Michigan is an all-volunteer team serving Delta County and surrounding areas. Among other responsibilities, the agency performs ice and swift water rescues on 1,777 square miles of land and inland waterways and on more than 200 miles of Lake Michigan.
Drowning has become a too-frequent tragedy in the areas serviced by these agencies, raising concern about slow response times and reliance on low-tech equipment such as ladders and tires to reach victims. The initial discussions about equipment upgrades began nearly 20 years ago after a drowning during the Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association’s UP 200 race, a major Michigan event. A man tried to rescue his dog after it fell through the ice, but they both drowned in spite of rescue attempts using ropes and ladders. The rescuers almost lost their lives as well.
The decision to purchase a Neoteric hovercraft was made because the department wanted “something that would be safer for us and that would be quicker at the same time,” explains Public Safety Officer Sgt. Scott Larson.
Gladstone’s new Neoteric rescue hovercraft undergoes performance testing on the Wabash River.
All three Officers emphasized how professional training is absolutely essential for every hovercraft owner, particularly those involved in rescue operations. They were also impressed with the unusual maneuverability of the Neoteric hovercraft.
At the conclusion of their training, Gladstone Public Safety Director Paul Geyer observed, “The maneuverability is incredible – but it takes a fine touch to get that maneuverability. I struggled with trying to drive like it was a four-wheeler, when you turn where you want to go. With this hovercraft, you hardly turn at all … when Chris relates it to a helicopter, I can see it. And I expected it to be louder than it is.”
Paul Geyer learns to fly the department’s new hovercraft on the Wabash River, while instructor Chris Fitzgerald provides constant assistance and supervision.
Both work and recreation in the Gladstone area have now risen to a new level of safety. Their new hovercraft will be a valuable year-round asset in helping Gladstone Public Safety prevent injuries and fatalities on and near Lake Michigan.
See a photo gallery of Gladstone’s hovercraft pilot training sessions.
Learn more about Neoteric rescue hovercraft.