Helicopters Magazine

Rural fire chief pans STARs suspension

December 18, 2013  By CBC News

Dec. 18, 2013, Steinbach, Man. - Concerns are being raised over the suspension of an air ambulance service in Manitoba, after a Steinbach teen died in a snowmobile crash on Saturday.

Jonah Crookes, 16, was snowmobiling near Highway 210 near La Broquerie
when he lost control and hit trees. Emergency crews were called but had
trouble reaching the scene. They had to use snowmobiles to get to the
area, and Crookes died.

The Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service or STARS, the province’s air
ambulance helicopter service, was suspended two weeks ago over concerns
it may have broken some rules during a transport.

Now, at least one rural fire chief is raising the alarm bells over its absence.

“It’s like saying, ‘Yeah. We’re taking away your fire truck. Make due
with what you got with the smaller pump,’” said Patrick Laroche, the
fire chief for the RM of De Salaberry. “Yeah, I’m going to be worried
because we don’t have all the tools.”


Since STARS has been suspended, ground ambulances have responded to six calls that helicopters normally would have.

In each case, provincial health officials said comparable service was
provided to patients by providing planes and ground ambulances.

But Laroche isn’t convinced.

“Timewise, you can’t replace [the helicopter],” he said.

Helicopters have the advantage of being able to land in most remote
locations – locations ground ambulances can’t drive to and planes can’t
land in.

Snowmobiler Brad Harder said he’s worried about what the STARS suspension will mean for other snowmobilers in the area.

“It’s very disappointing. It’s helped a lot of people and could still
be helping people,” he said. “Very often, minutes will make a
difference between life and death.”

In Crookes’ case, officials said an air ambulance would not have been
dispatched because the crash happened in a heavily wooded area where a
helicopter could not have landed.

It is not yet known how long STARS flights will be suspended in
Manitoba, but officials said helicopter air ambulance service is in the
future for the province.


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