Push to keep ‘Pedro’ helicopter along the coast moves forward

CARTERET COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT) – After one teen drowned and another was injured during an incident at Emerald Isle, the push to keep a military helicopter along the coast moves forward.

Time is of the essence, as most emergency situations are. That’s why having search and rescue helicopters are an extremely valuable resource.

In the past year, Pedro has assisted with 17 different rescue missions.

Just this week, the helicopter, which was in the area for a training exercise, was called to transport a teenager rescued from the waters of Emerald Isle to Vidant Medical Center.

While on board, paramedics revived the boy, though he later died at the hospital.

Pedro’s pilot said responding to calls like this are vital for patients in critical condition.

“We were close and were able to provide assistance effectively right when they asked for it,” said Captain Richard Hill, the pilot of Pedro. “We were in the area and we try to do whatever we can do to support local agencies and anything they may need.”

Captain Hill said coming into work the next day and hearing the boy had passed away was difficult.

“When we got into work the next morning, we heard on the news that he didn’t survive and that was disappointing to all of us because every time we go out on something like this we want the best for them,” said Hill.

The future of Pedro responding to these types of calls may end in the coming months.

This year’s marine aviation plan calls for grounding four Pedro helicopters due to 2016 budget constraints. Something Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck said is a problem for the local community.

“Time is of the essence. When you have police officers, and deputies and rescue personnel out on foot trying to locate people, we’re very limited even out on the water we’re very limited in what we can do. So having this air asset to come in and locate people when they’re in trouble, that has really helped us out a lot over a number of years,” said Buck.

A spokeswoman for the Marine Corps also said with budget cuts, a new plan is not in the works for a similar resource in the area.

The Sheriff said keeping this resource in Eastern North Carolina is vital to assist in rescue missions in the rural, forest, and maritime areas.

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