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Hovercraft on way to patrol border
Justice Department buys craft built by Neoteric

June 12, 2002
Tribune Star

By Peter Ciancone

A Terre Haute company's product has made its way to southern California to help make the border with Mexico safer and more secure.

Neoteric Hovercraft Inc., has sold one of its specialty watercraft to the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service to be used in the waterways around El Centro, Calif.

Chris Fitzgerald, president of Neoteric, said the INS inquiry from El Centro was not the first his company had received.

"We've had inquiries from various border patrol people for quite some time," he said. "This recent thing came up about three months ago."

The hovercraft will be used in the All-American Canal, an agricultural channel that separates the United States from Mexico in California's Imperial Valley, 150 miles east of San Diego, said INS spokesman Manuel Figueroa.

The canal moves about 5 million cubic feet of water per minute from the Colorado River to the farms in the area, and has been a danger spot for illegal immigrants trying to cross the border into the United States.

Figueroa said 17 people have drowned in the canal since October, and more than 50 died last year between the swift-moving water in the canal and the vast tracts of desert north of the border.

Fitzgerald recently traveled to southern California to train members of the Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue teams in the craft's use.

The unique set of circumstances in the area around that part of California made a hovercraft their best option for patrol and rescue.

Hovercraft were chosen by INS because of their capabilities, Figueroa said. The canal is maintained by the Imperial Valley Water Authority, which previously had not permitted motor boats in the canal. Their engines could leak oil and gas into the water, and their movement makes a wake that erodes the soil composition of the canal walls.

"The hovercraft can travel up and down the canal at 25-30 miles per hour without creating a wash," Fitzgerald said.

Figueroa said the INS was considering buying more of the craft to patrol more sections of the canal, which is divided by a series of locks and drops.

Fitzgerald said the use of hovercraft is growing as emphasis in homeland security increases.

"First responders worldwide have recognized their value in performing fast, safe, rescues on swift water, ice, snow and partially frozen waters when other vehicles cannot," he said. "And hovercraft are more cost-effective than helicopters." Neoteric has been building hovercraft since 1975. Other organizations using Neoteric craft include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Anchorage International Airport, the Heilongjung River Commission and Huaihe River Commission in China and safety services throughout the United States.


Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc.
1649 Tippecanoe Street Terre Haute, Indiana USA 47807-2394
Telephone: 812-234-1120 / 800-285-3761 Fax: 812-234-3217
Homepage:
www.neoterichovercraft.com / www.rescuehovercraft.com
E-mail: hovermail@neoterichovercraft.com
© 2003 Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc, All Rights Reserved