Future of chopper rescue team in jeopardy following funding cuts
SEATTLE - The Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team saved lives after the devastating SR-530 landslide, provided aid when the Skagit River Bridge collapsed, and has rescued countless hikers in Washington State. Now, its future is in jeopardy as the federal funding for the program will be cut at the end of 2014.
"I'm living testimony of it. Without it, people will die," Ty Reoh said.
Reoh was rescued by the team last month after a snowmobile accident in the back country of Mount Baker.
"It's a dangerous job, and an unbelievable resource to have. I wasn't getting out of there without it. No questions asked. We were running out of time."
Reoh's accident happened March 21st, one day before the 530 landslide. "I sat in the hospital the whole next day at Harborview and watched on TV - live footage of them rescuing 6, 7, 8 people out of a mudslide - that's the same people that just saved me yesterday," Reoh recalled.
The team is made up of all volunteers, and their operations aren't cheap. The helicopter uses about $1,200 an hour of fuel and maintenance costs, approximately $130,000 to $150,000 annually.
"It's a mixed bag, because on the one hand it validates what we do, and it validates the importance of this as a resource for a large scale disaster," rescue team member Randy Fay said.
The team brought awareness to their financial situation by hosting a dinner and auction Saturday night in Seattle. Supporters were able to bid on items to help secure the team's future.
"It is a bit frustrating to us - that we have the helicopter - so we have the physical resource, we have the staff willing to provide this care, but we cannot secure the funds to enable us to perform the rescues in the future," Fray said.
To help support the Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team, donate online.