Oak Island Water Rescue ready to make rescues with new hovercraft

North Carolina news

OAK ISLAND, N.C. (WECT) – After months of training, Oak Island Water Rescue is ready to conduct rescues with their newest rescue vehicle: a hovercraft.

In instances where rescue boats couldn’t get to kayakers or fishermen stuck in the area’s salt creeks and muddy marshes, the hovercraft can quickly traverse any terrain to get to people in life or death situations.

“We can fly right up to you if you’re stuck in the mud somehow, and just step from your kayak right into our hovercraft and we’ll fly away with you and that’s all there is to it,” said Oak Island Rescue Chief Tony Young.

The hovercraft arrived in February, and crews haven’t had to use it yet.

Since it was delivered, the rescue team has been learning the ins and outs of operating it; it takes 30 hours of training to be able to pilot the hovercraft.

“It’s a lot closer to learning how to fly an airplane than it is to driving a boat,” said Young. “It’s like a magic carpet because you can fly right through the grass, the mud and you can go over oyster shells if you have to and it doesn’t hurt it because it’s flying about a foot above the surface.”

Young says he’d hoped to get a hovercraft for years, and the opportunity came after Hurricane Isaias devastated their water rescue station. The hovercraft was a gift to the rescue from a generous donor, meaning no taxpayer money was used to buy it.

“We had a few people comment, ‘Oh, nice toy,’ but I always think to myself, ‘You know what? If you were out in the mud and I came and got you in this thing, you wouldn’t think it was a toy anymore,’” said Young.

The machine is the first of its kind in southeastern North Carolina. They hope to have it available soon for mutual aid situations to help people in nearby places like Holden Beach or Ocean Isle Beach as well.

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