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Search & Rescue Training

Penticton Residents were treated to a highflying act Saturday as members of Penticton and District Search and Rescue – HETS Team technicians and pilots conducted their annual certification training.

HETS is a Long Line Rescue technique, also known as Human External Cargo (HEC) or Helicopter External Transport Systems (HETS), as a rescue technique that is used by trained rescuers and pilots as a team in order to extricate or rescue stranded and or/injured persons from otherwise inaccessible or technical terrain.

Penticton’s SAR Team has 8 HETS Technicians who have to qualify annually with their pilot team from Eclipse Helicopters. The Penticton Team was established in 2010 after Penticton SAR members had to be extracted from a remote site in 2009 with an injured person by a Lower Mainland SAR HETS team. The PENSAR Team quickly realized the value of having such a rescue tool at their disposal especially when time is an important factor in saving a life.

The Penticton HETS Team is activated when requested by an emergency service (BC Ambulance, RCMP and other SAR Teams under mutual aid) who face the responsibility of a challenging evacuation of a person or persons who are in medical distress in a remote of difficult area of the backcountry.

Over the past 4 years PENSAR’s HETS Team has been utilized as far North as Clearwater and in the Kelowna, Vernon, Castlegar and the Nelson Regions to evacuate injured persons. The most recent incident was only last week when COSAR requested the PENSAR HETS team under a mutual aid assistance call to assist with the retrieval of an injured mountain biker.

Frank Wolfinger and George Field ( HETS Technicians) love the job but it’s just not for everyone. Safety is a major concern for all as the HETS rescues are technical and require precision, teamwork and excellent communication. 

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