FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A helicopter has been added to the Florence County Sheriff's Office fleet.
The Bell OH-58A "Kiowa" helicopter is a military-grade helicopter.
The aircraft will be utilized for drug enforcement and missing person searches.
"Everything we do is measured by whether it tends to make the citizens of Florence County safer. This helicopter is no exception," said Sheriff Kenney Boone. "We believe that the Aviation Division provides Florence County with an additional capability to save lives and improve effectiveness."
The helicopter, named "Raptor 1" was acquired from the U.S. Department of Defense under the 1033 Program for little more than the cost of the fuel to fly it from it's base in Kentucky. To purchase the helicopter new would cost over $4 million. It will be used to respond to critical incidents from the air, such as searching for missing persons, wandering Alzheimer's patients, stolen property, fleeing suspects, contraband and will also assist other law enforcement agencies in the Pee Dee.
"Over just the past several weeks, we have searched for several missing persons in our County, including an 11-year-old child, a stroke victim and a person who had been missing for several days," Sheriff Boone stated. "And while we routinely request SLED's helicopter to assist in these searches, its helicopter is not always available; and even when it is, it often takes hours to arrive. We now have the capability to search from the air on our own in a more timely and effective manner. As everyone knows, when it comes to searching for the lost, time is of the essence."
Officials will house the helicopter at the Florence regional airport.
Florence County Sheriff's Office joins 13 other South Carolina counties with an aviation unit and the only one in the Pee Dee region.