Chocowinity EMS, Cypress Landing work to improve marine rescue

Published 7:12 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Chocowinity Emergency Medical Services and Cypress Landing Marina Association are working together to make up for a threatening lack of resources.

The two groups are teaming up to try to establish a notable presence of marine rescue boats on the Pamlico River.

“The short answer is that we have no rapid response boats at all in Beaufort County, meaning there are no boats in the water ready to go,” said Skip Vail, president of CLMA.

In a meeting earlier this year, Chocowinity EMS Capt. Shane Grier revealed there are no marine rescue boats in areas surrounding Chocowinity. He said rescue boats are scattered around different areas of Beaufort County, but none of them are stationed in the water permanently. Both Vail and Grier agreed that the absence of marine rescue resources could mean an increased chance of tragedies.

The overriding problem, according to Grier, is that there is not enough county funding to purchase and host an additional rescue boat.

“It’s money that we don’t budget for, money we don’t plan on budgeting for,” Grier said.

Grier said it’s vital to have boats ready to go in order to shorten the waiting time for people who find themselves in a crisis on the water. He said even though some areas around the county might have access to rescue boats, it’s still not plausible that they can put the boat in the water and get to Chocowinity and areas surrounding it in a timely fashion.

He said incidents that happened earlier this year near Chocowinity took rescue officials nearly an hour to arrive on scene.

“I know PotashCorp was fixing to get a boat from my understanding, but you’re talking about Chocowinity Bay … even from Washington, to get a boat in the water, you’re still talking about an extended period of time,” Grier said.

The next step for the project is to obtain a boat. Grier said it’s been a slow process; he is trying to find a boat capable of getting the job done.

“Our thing is we don’t want to buy a water rescue boat, we just want to buy a boat and put a paramedic in and send him out if we have to,” Grier said.

Chocowinity EMS and CLMA have also began a Community Emergency Response Team, which plans to recruit resident volunteers to take part in a 21-hour training program to certify them to provide emergency support both on land and water.
Grier said about 40 residents have already been trained earlier this month, and he hopes to train even more. Another training session will be held on Sept. 15-17. Grier said the rescue job could equate to about $30 per hour, so facilitating a volunteer squad could save a lot of money in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.

Once the boat is obtained, it will be stationed at the Cypress Landing Marina. Vail said the marina is excited to cooperate with Chocowinity EMS to provide a quick and easily accessible space for the boat.

“We here are certainly more than willing to host any emergency service boats,” Vail said.