IFD gets Hovercraft
WTHR TV 13, Indianapolis, IN
by Sandra Chapman
Firefighters in Marion and Hamilton Counties will soon
have a new and faster way to make water rescues and
respond to water terrorism. It's designed to glide on
top of water, ice and even land like a cushion of
air. The Hovercraft is the county's latest purchase
with Homeland Security funds.
It's touted as a recreational vehicle, a rescue
watercraft and now a tool in the county's response to
terrorism. It's called a Hovercraft.
"They could think it's something that's frivolous or
extraneous or somebody's toy," said John Ball, Marion
County Emergency Management.
Ball says this is no toy, but a potential lifesaver in
ice or high water.
"Conditions where we're really putting rescuers in
harm's way at some very extremely dangerous
circumstances. The Hovercraft gives us a tool to
increase that safety and to get to citizens and
rescue them," said Ball.
In a rescue attempt in September 2003, divers were
repeatedly forced back in their attempts to recover
the body of a 78-year-old woman from the flood waters
of Fall Creek.
Another incident in the White River in June 2001 also
highlights the need for a Hovercraft. "That rescue
while very heroic was extremely dangerous to lower a
helicopter over that," said Ball.
Ball says the Hovercraft could have been effective in
"We discovered we have a real gap in some of the
circumstances that divers encounter in Indianapolis,"
A Homeland Security urban grant covering both Marion
and Hamilton Counties will cover the $57,000
watercraft and the cost of training for a pilot and
five other rescuers.
Officials at the Indianapolis Fire Department would
not speak publicly about the Hovercraft, only to say
that it would be housed at a city fire station and
that it would be dispatched to other agencies and
jurisdictions as needed.
"We're all mindful that it's a very tight budget. We
live here and pay taxes as well. I can tell you this
is a capability that we would not have but for these
grant dollars," Ball said.
The county says that tool will expand their reach on a
reservoir, river or a flooded neighborhood. Emergency
Management officials say the county's Hovercraft has
been built. A team will travel to Terre Haute next
week to inspect the watercraft and get training. An
unveiling to the city is planned in early October.