Monday, February 15, 2016

Saving lives out of the blue • Aviation Command performs search-and-rescue operations and speedy transports to hospitals

Trooper 3 crew members, from left, Matthew Adams, Kristine Yaroschuk, Timothy Siebold and Bill Jensen. 

A Maryland State Police Aviation Command training exercise includes practice in reaching the ground from an airborne helicopter.

It’s not unusual for Kristine ­Yaroschuk and her daughter Fiona, 8, to look up at the sky, wave and shout, “Hi, Trooper 3!” as their local Maryland State Police helicopter flies by. While on duty, Fiona’s mom is the pilot in command aboard that aircraft.

Last summer, three teens, stranded on rocks in rough water after their boat capsized in Maryland’s Lake Linganore, were rescued by Trooper 3, located in Frederick. As the copter hovered overhead, rotor blades spinning, the crew lowered a strong wire rescue basket to lift the teens, one by one, up to waiting medical care on board. This is just one example of thousands of successful missions these “safety nets in the sky” perform each year.

Providing a lifeline to many, Maryland’s Aviation Command helicopters, based in seven centers across the state, can travel 175 miles per hour to reach almost any location in Maryland within 20 minutes.

Each crew has two pilots and two medics supported by a team of mechanics who keep the helicopters in tiptop shape.

In addition to rescue baskets, each helicopter carries all the equipment an ambulance does. Night-vision goggles help crew members work in the dark, while a camera, mounted under the aircraft’s nose, captures images of scenes below. High-tech equipment allows the crew to communicate with emergency units on the ground to assess the situation and transport patients to the best hospital for their needs.

And, in Maryland, this lifesaving service, paid for by car registration fees, is provided at no cost to the patient. Medic Bill Jansen said, “It’s very satisfying to know you are helping others in difficult times.”

Whether it’s a lost hiker, a victim of a severe fall or traffic accident, or anyone else in a life-threatening situation, the Aviation Command works primarily on emergency medical transport or search-and-rescue missions. 

Crews also help with disaster monitoring, such as during flooding or storm damage, and providing aerial assistance for Homeland Security and law enforcement.

The pilots, medics and supporting mechanics for each of the Aviation Command’s 10 helicopters are highly trained in their specialties. Beyond the math, science, engineering and communication skills needed, all must have strong teamwork skills and be able to think ahead, staying calm as they react quickly to every situation.

When Yaroschuk and her crew begin work each day, they never know what situations they will face, but they are well prepared to meet any challenge. Yaroschuk, who has been with Trooper 3 for eight years, said, “I’m at the place I wanted to be, doing what I want to do.”

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