By NICOLE MARSHALL World Staff Writer
Published: 11/3/2010 10:51 PM
The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office launched its new rescue airboat in the Arkansas River on Wednesday, showing how it skims effortlessly across both the water and sand bars.
The boat will be used in emergencies such as swift-water rescues, drowning recoveries, floods and dive team investigations, Sgt. Shannon Clark said. It cost $42,000 and was purchased with Department of Homeland Security funds that were attained through a grant.
“We had an air boat in our arsenal before, but it just wasn’t very reliable, and there was just not a lot it was able to do,” Clark said. “Having this new state-of-the art air boat in the Tulsa area is just going to be hugely beneficial for the Sheriff’s Office for us to do a multitude of things.”
The boat was custom made for the Sheriff’s Office by GTO Performance Airboats of Ocala, Fla.
“It was specifically designed for the terrain that we have, from the low-water levels to the marshy areas to sand bars to open water like at Lake Keystone,” Clark said.
“We can do swift-water rescue events. We can do drowning recoveries. We can do enforcement events on the river. It does not matter if the water is flowing or not.
“We can get from one end of the river completely to the other, even in low-water conditions if we need to.”
A deputy who will be the boat’s pilot received special training from the manufacturer, Clark said.
The boat was launched Wednesday from the west side of the Arkansas River near 17th Street and Jackson Avenue to give the pilot a chance to get a feel for how it handles.
Power is provided by a 567-horsepower (423 kW) performance motor with a three-blade carbine fiber whisper prop.
Use of the boat will depend on the jurisdiction of the call. For example, if protocol calls for the Tulsa Fire Department to respond, the department can choose to call the county for assistance.
Leader of the TCSO dive team, Deputy David Long, says it can be used in swift water rescue, water incident investigations, floods, and can go in open water, marsh, or on sand bars. The boat is 18 feet long with a 96 inch beam. It can carry five people or haul ATVs to search areas at speeds up to 65 mph (105 km/h).