The North Muskegon Fire Department in Michigan, which has utilized Neoteric rescue hovercraft for three decades, hosted an inaugural statewide Ice Rescue Conference and Education Day Saturday, attended by numerous fire and rescue departments and the U.S. Coast Guard.
North Muskegon’s newer Neoteric HoverTrek™ was used for ice rescue demonstrations at the event, and their original craft from 1985 was on display. A historical photo display of hovercraft ice rescues over the years was also part of the event.
“The North Muskegon Fire Department was a pioneer in using hovercraft for ice rescue operations,” stated training officer Jeff Hedges. Fire Chief Steve Lague added, “Our hovercraft have saved more lives than all our fire engines combined. Since 1985, more than 255 people have been rescued from Muskegon area lakes using the hovercraft. More than half of them would have drowned not having the hovercraft as a safe rescue tool.” In 2005, North Muskegon’s original Neoteric hovercraft held the world record for ice rescues.
The numerous media covering the Conference emphasized the importance of speed in ice rescues. As one reporter stated, “In just a few short minutes after falling through the ice, a victim can start to lose mobility or even consciousness. In a battle between life and death, time is of the essence.”
The U.S. Coast Guard usually responds to ice rescues with a team of four who go out on the ice on foot – while crews from the North Muskegon Fire Department’s hovercraft can safely speed upwards of 60 miles per hour across frozen or partially frozen lakes.
But you have to know what you’re doing – and that’s why professional flight training is especially important for first responders. As hovercraft pilot David Ogren says in this news video about the Conference, “Because you’re floating on a cushion of air and even though you do have a lot of control, you could very easily lose that control and have issues” …
As North Muskegon Fire Chief Steve Lague says, “Ice rescues are inherently dangerous. They’re a high risk, low probability situation where we can get into trouble very quickly.”
The Neoteric Rescue HoverTrek™, with its patented reverse thrust system, is recognized worldwide as the industry standard for rescue hovercraft because it greatly reduces that risk by keeping first responders and victims above the danger - not in it.