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NEWPORT BEACH : Rescue Hovercraft Requested in Budget

Fire officials in Newport Beach have spent several years looking for a better way to rescue people and animals that become mired in the mud flats of upper Newport Bay. This year, they may have a solution.

Every year, people wander into the bay and get stuck in the thick mud of the bay floor, Fire Chief James Reed said. Firefighters and paramedics have had to skim through the mud on modified surfboards or drop down from the skids of helicopters to rescue the people, who are sometimes up to their necks in mud.

Horses also pose a problem for the department, Reed said, since they will sometimes walk into the water and sink into the mud. In these cases, firefighters have had to work their way out to the horses, rig a sling under the animal’s belly and tow the horse out, using a winch on a tow truck.

But Reed said those methods are just not good enough, and his department has asked the City Council to set aside $20,000 in the next budget for the purchase of a Hovercraft for the city’s rescue personnel.

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The Hovercraft, which sits about a foot off the ground on a cushion of air and moves above the water or mud, would enable the department and paramedics to get equipment out to the victims quickly, Reed said. Another possibility is a flat-bottomed boat propelled by a huge air jet mounted on the rear. The boats are common in the Florida Everglades, Reed said.

The City Council is reviewing next year’s budget and has not yet made a decision on the Fire Department’s request.


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