Police Service of Northern Ireland adds BK117

Police Service of Northern Ireland adds BK117 17 Jan, 11, Source: Police Aviation News

A month ago it looked as if the Devon & Cornwall BK117C-1 was destined to join the Avon Fire Brigade but then the hand of fate stepped in and the PSNI messed up their leased AS355F2 G-SEWP flying in bad weather in the Mourne Mountains. The Veritair supplied Squirrel was easily replaced by one of the current surplus of EC135T1 helicopters littering Eurocopter Oxford but the longer term plan has settled on the BK117.

It looks as if PSNI are seriously taken with their EC145 [aka BK117C-2] and have flown the pants off it… over 600 since the summer …. So adding the earlier model apparently makes sense in what is a deteriorating security situation in the north.

With the mooted National cuts on the mainland one wonders where they might find some slack if the security problem goes awry nationwide?

None of the UK police forces is trained in rescue techniques, most SAR and winch work is left to the expertise of the military. From time to time the police are called to incidents where the military expertise is too far away and the pressure on the untrained to do ‘something’ is just overwhelming. Happily on numerous occasions ad-hoc rescues have been gratifyingly successful, crew members hanging out of doors or astride skids have managed to grab and save people that would otherwise have died waiting for the experts. The situation is somewhat worse in the north of Ireland mainly because the peace process saw the removal of military SAR [mainly 72 Squadron Westland Wessex] and reliance on more distant assets.  Distance brings deaths, and there is plenty of distance.

Last month a 51-year-old man died after falling through the ice at a lake in Lurgan Park. It was reported that he was in difficulties and the police EC135 arrived to try and effect a rescue. Officers in the helicopter managed to hoist the man from the water onto the ice but were unable to lift him off it. Meanwhile other emergency services tried to reach him in a light boat only to have their craft flipped over by the downdraft from the helicopter – depositing the occupants, two from the fire service and a paramedic, into the freezing water. Two swam ashore and one was rescued by the Fire Service special rescue team. They were hospitalised.

The man who was the focus of the initial rescue operation, was brought to shore and treated by paramedics and an off duty doctor before transfer to Craigavon Area Hospital by a coastguard helicopter.

Editor: Thankfully the helicopter did not itself come to grief. Even without money and a winch this event shows that it is possible for the wholly untrained to save people from water and ice but not always with a positive outcome. Free training is out there with courses that will teach some of the techniques and pitfalls but operators need to go get them. For the police [though not exclusively] the source of this rich vein of people who have been there made all the mistakes and have many of the answers is within the ALEA. This international grouping of like minded policemen who will tell you how it is in their eyes [even if you may disagree] and PAvCon encourages them to come to Europe to tell their varied tales of matters that little is known of. This year one of the presentations given in Prague was ‘How to….  ice rescue….’ presented by a ALEA US east coast member who has seen lots of ice and has therefore had many chances to make the mistakes and put them right. With RAF SAR on the wane it is time to learn from others. The problem is getting UK police air support to act for themselves

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Reproduced from Police Aviation News with permission. Copyright and full responsibility for the content of this article remains with Police Aviation News

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