By Jamie Rieger
The final tallies are not yet in, but Dale Thacker, chair of the HALO Rescue executive estimates more than $20,000 was raised at their 17th annual charity golf tournament, held in Bow Island on Friday.
Thacker, who has been instrumental in seeing the rescue helicopter put in place for southeast Alberta, said it was a few tragic incidents that led to it being established.
Thacker said the idea for a rescue helicopter for southeast Alberta came about following a fatal motor vehicle collision near Elkwater a number of years ago.
“STARS could respond soon enough. We needed something better and people understood there that the need was there,” said Thacker.
The need was further made apparent when an area man had been reported missing and crews on the ground were unable to locate him.
Thacker, who operated Rangeland Helicopters, took his helicpoter to the sky and was able to locate the man within 15 minutes.
“He was out by the river at Bow Island Grazing and people had been looking for him all day. I was able to find him within 15 minutes,” he said.
Since its inception in 2007, the HALO rescue helicopter has completed over 200 rescues, over half of them life-saving.
To date, HALO Rescue receives no government funding, but they are currently lobbying the provincial government to change that.
“We aren’t asking the government for a lot, less than half a million dollars,” he said.
“What a lot of people do not understand is that STARS, which does get funding, does primarily inter-facility transfers and HALO does more rescue flights. In fact, they say that two-thirds of all their flights are inter-facility,” said Thacker.
Also, the STARS helicopter, because of its weight, is not able to land in areas HALO can.
“STARS has about the same landing capacity as an airplane, so the trouble is they can’t often land here. As a result, we get called out a lot,” he said.
Thacker also said that the organization saw a drop in donations when oil prices fell and is hoping other industries will step up.
“When you look at it, 60 percent of our donations came from the oil and gas industry, but 50 percent of our calls are in the Agriculture industry, 20 percent are motor vehicle collisions, and 30 percent are in the oil and gas industry,” said executive director, Stuart Riley. “If we don’t get the support, we may not be here next year.”
Twenty-one teams of four turned out to the golf tournament on Friday afternoon, but the action on the course was cut short a few holes in when a powerful storm blew through the Bow Island area.