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Medical helicopter has new home

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

A nearby air ambulance in December helped searchers safely rescue a 17-year-old girl who crashed into a tree on a snowmobile.

Fortunately, the AirMed medical helicopter was available when the accident happened and responded quickly to the remote, rocky area of the Uinta Mountains east of Oakley, said Detective Ron Bridge, a spokesman for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

"Due to the terrain, the helicopter was dispatched to the area," Bridge said about the incident Dec. 28.

The victim was visiting from New York and had leg and arm injuries, he said.

"[Searchers] located her and decided that the stress of getting out in a toboggan was not worth it," Bridge said.

Since the 1980s an AirMed helicopter crew has been stationed in Summit County. They went from manning 12-hour to 24-hour shifts about two years ago.

But with the Park City Fire District set to expand, AirMed learned last year that they were going to lose their landing pad at a fire station on Bitner Road where the service had been based for about two decades.

Within the next three weeks, an AirMed official said he expects the chopper crew to have a new location at the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District, 1540 E. 7155 North in Silver Creek.

"We are very pleased to remain in Summit County," AirMed Program Manager Rob Stantus said Tuesday. "One of the nice things about having the base in Park City is that our response time to the ski resorts is very short."

So the chances of surviving increase for a visitor who is suffering from altitude sickness and goes into cardiac arrest, he explained.

For someone in Summit County suffering from a stroke, heart attack or acute trauma, a helicopter close by can mean the difference between life and death.

"[AirMed] has absolutely saved lives by cutting down on transport times," said Summit County Councilman John Hanrahan, who is also a medical doctor. "Medical advances are at the point where 15 minutes can mean life or death."

A medical helicopter in the Uinta Mountains can fly a patient to a hospital within 40 minutes, Stantus explained, adding that the same trip in an ambulance could last four hours.

"Many rural areas, while they have great community-based hospitals, they may not have the services available or the specialists on staff 24 hours a day," Stantus said. "We bring a higher level of care to that rural environment. The goal of having a helicopter is to reduce the transport time for critical patients from that rural area to the metro area where they can get the care and services they need."

AirMed flights on the Wasatch Back occur almost daily, Stantus said.

"We could go two or three weeks without using an air ambulance and then on a Saturday afternoon in the summer we could use it four times in one day," Bridge said.

At its new location AirMed will occupy a slab of concrete once used for composting at the sewer district on the West Side of Summit County.

"It just happened to turn out to be a good use of that site We wanted to be able to use that site to benefit the community," said Mike Luers, general manager of the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District.

AirMed has leased the property for five years, Luers explained.

"It’s no cost to the district and our board of trustees basically said, if we can assist the community by providing a landing zone for AirMed, and there is no negative impact to the district, why shouldn’t we do that," Luers said. "It only made sense."

There are about six AirMed bases throughout the Intermountain West. The non-profit company is affiliated with the University of Utah.


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