MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) – As water rescues decrease on the Grand Strand, the U.S. Coast Guard is re-evaluating its fleet of emergency response, aircraft and watercraft.
Namely, the helicopter will be removed from the base in Charleston along with the five personnel necessary to man it.
“While it may seem opposite, the Coast Guard is actually expanding its footprint in the area. We are removing one helicopter and five personnel, but we are bringing in two new boats with 220 personnel,” explained Lt. Commander Gabe Soma with the United States Coast Guard.
Lt. Commander Soma said the two National Security Cutters will be the first of its kind on the East Coast. It is a $1 billion investment necessary to replace an aging fleet.
“While this particular helicopter will be moved out of the location, the services for search and rescue efforts will still be available,” said Chad Saylor, a spokesperson for the United States Coast Guard.
Mainly, Saylor explained, those air-related services will be provided by other cities in the region. Aircraft will come from Elizabeth City, North Carolina as well as Savannah, Georgia, and Clearwater, Florida.
The aircraft from Clearwater includes a plane that can travel long distances and remain searching throughout the night and day.
In addition to the air coverage from other cities, Lt. Commander Soma believes the cutters will be adequate to handle marine emergencies on the Grand Strand. Especially, as Soma pointed out, because ninety percent of cases are within ten miles of the shore.
“Water rescues for that area are down 43 percent over the last three years, with 86 in the year of 2014,” said Lt. Commander Soma.
He credits better communication, technology, and boating equipment for the decrease.