A POLICE helicopter is said to have played a part in saving 58 lives in just 12 months.
Since April 1 last year, officers from Cleveland Police’s Air Operations Unit have been involved in 52 missing people cases and six casualties that needed to be taken to hospital urgently.
In September 2011, the helicopter was called to help in the search for a vulnerable missing woman at North Gare, on the outskirts of Hartlepool.
Her car had been found abandoned in a small car park near to the dunes.
She was found behind the grassy mounds using heat sourcing equipment by officers in the helicopter, a spot that officers say could not be seen from any location other than in the air.
She was found semi-conscious and given immediate treatment and police say had the woman been left much longer, she would have fallen fully unconscious and the consequences could have been fatal.
Sergeant Dave Clark, from the Air Operations Unit, said: “We regard incidents such as these as part of our day job, we are here to serve the public and to help keep people safe, but to know that we have directly helped in saving the lives of 58 people over the last year makes the job all the more worthwhile.”
Another incident, which took place in January 2012 saw the helicopter called to attend a report of a vulnerable elderly man stuck in woodland in Saltburn who was becoming distressed, tired and unable to move.
Officers from the Air Operations Unit carried out an extensive search and found the man using thermal imaging cameras before taking him to safety.
The helicopter is a Eurocopter EC135 P2i, which is said to be the most advanced police helicopter in the world.
It is able to operate at a higher level than the previous helicopter, so it causes less intrusion.
Also, the improved quality of the camera combined with the height means that the helicopter can gather evidence over larger areas more quickly and make more arrests.
The technology also allows digital information to be transmitted to the police control room and also onto mobile devices and desktops in the force.
Helicopter Watch was launched in April 2011 and is updated daily to give members of the public details of what operations the helicopter has been involved in and whereabouts in the force area it has been.
For more details visit www.cleveland.police.uk.