The Collier County Sheriff’s Office welcomed the newest vehicle to its fleet with the $400,000 purchase of a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter in an effort to better equip rescue efforts in natural disasters.
The agency also spent another $350,000 to retrofit the helicopter and train its staff to fly the aircraft which has an interesting and well-traveled history.
The craft was used during Vietnam, shot at and damaged one month into its first tour of duty in 1971. After returning for repairs, the helicopter was utilized by the FBI, Border Patrol, and finally the Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations office before being purchased at auction by the CCSO. The retrofit includes new floors, upholstery, intercom system, hoist, cargo hook, and video cameras.
The aircraft can carry 10 people and up to 4,000 pounds, and is expected to be used to fight wildfires and assist in a variety of search-and-rescue operations. Multiple brush fires over the summer each burned thousands of acres in Collier County, highlighting the need for such a vehicle. The Huey has been equipped with a 240 bucket to help extinguish active fires.
The helicopter will also allow deputies to more quickly respond to situations like hikers lost in the everglades. In the past, the CCSO has had to wait for assistance from Miami-Dade in order to attempt a rescue.
“Instead of spending four hours directing people in, we’ll be able to hoist them out ourselves,” said Lt. Sean Arthur, Aviation Unit supervisor.
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