National Guard practices water-rescue training in Denver
DENVER – The North Carolina National Guard came right to Denver when they needed a spot to practice water-rescue training.
The guard, along with their Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, rehearsed rescuing imitation victims from Lake Norman from May 7 to 10 just off the Little Creek public access in Denver.
On Wednesday, May 9, the aquatic rescue team used a pair of UH–60 Blackhawk helicopters to extract victims from the water. Firefighters and other emergency personnel from the area also pitched in.
“It’s been a great opportunity for us to join forces with the state,” said Dion Burleson, public information officer for the Denver Fire Department. “This exercise isn’t driven toward Lake Norman per se as much as it is static water rescue that you would find in flooding situations.”
The team goes through quarterly rehearsals at different locations across the state, including the ocean, mountains and lakes.
Wednesday, two of the victims in the water were N.C. Sen. Chris Carney (Mooresville) and newly re-elected N.C. Rep. Jason Saine of Denver.
“I don’t think he (Carney) really knew what I was getting him into when he signed up,” Saine said. “The whole scenario just blows you away.”
Helicopter pilots lifted victims out of the water by rope to help them move to a safer destination. Carney and Saine were lifted more than 20 feet out of the water.
“When you’re out there, you just feel at ease because the guys are so professional about everything,” Carney said. “You just relax and let them do their job. It’s incredible.”
N.C. Emergency Management Public Information Officer Julia Jarema said Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Teams were first implemented in North Carolina in 1999 and rescued about 350 residents during hurricanes Frances and Ivan in 2004. There are between 45 and 50 rescue-technicians in the state, she said.
“We’re just pleased that we were approached to host this event,” Denver Fire Department Chief James Flynn said. “In budget times like these, we’ve all got to work together, so what better opportunity than to practice working together in this real scenario.”
Carney echoed Flynn’s appreciation, especially after witnessing the experts at work who would be on hand in case of a disaster.
“The fact that we’ve got this many trained people in the region, it just shows how prepared they are for whatever comes their way,” Carney said. “Anytime you can work with the first responders, it’s a great thing.”
The exercise wasn’t too out of the ordinary for Saine, who has been on the Swift Water Rescue team for the East Lincoln Fire Department for more than three years.
“You don’t really think about it in this area, but a flash flood situation or maybe something else might come up,” Saine said. “These guys are ready for it.”
Saine maintained his seat in Raleigh on Tuesday, May 8, by besting Jim Klein and Iron Station’s Charles Newman for N.C. House District 97. Carney will face Denver resident David Curtis in a second primary this summer to decide the Senate race for District 41.