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Rescue Helicopter Closure May Go To Ombudsman


12:32pm 13th May 2013

South Dorset MP Richard Drax has referred the decision to close the Portland Search and Rescue helicopter to the Ombudsman, claiming procedural irregularities.

It's in response to a letter from Stephen Hammond MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, telling him   'I  must now regard the matter as closed.'

Mr Drax says 'it is by no means closed for the people of South Dorset and the millions who flock to our coastline every year.'
In a statement issued to Wessex FM, Mr Drax continues...

'We depend upon this helicopter. A quarter of all coastguard callouts every year take place within the reach of the Portland helicopter, yet the Minister describes this as 'only a small fraction of the HM Coastguard co-ordinated incidents on the south coast.'

'The Minister also writes that the taskings have reduced over the last four years from 235 in 2009 to 163 in 2012. Whether reduced or not, that figure still represents 163 lives in peril.'

'In his last letter to me, the Minister accepted that the transit time taken by the alternative helicopters once this base is closed will be greatly increased. At a minimum, it takes 25 minutes from Solent and 40 minutes from Culdrose. Add that to the wind up time for a helicopter and you are dangerously near an hour. In Britain, even in the summer, an hour spent immersed in inshore waters is life threatening.'

'We have evidence from the head of Trauma for Dorset that last year, 25 lives were saved because the Portland helicopter was able to land at Dorchester County Hospital in a matter of minutes. What will happen to those people when the helicopter goes? Not to mention all the non-critical injuries where first aid is administered. And how will the Minister explain any excess deaths, which must be reported in future, to the Coroner?'

'The previous Secretary of State, Justine Greening MP wrote to me to say that there was no need for consultation because the DfT were "improving the service."

'I disagree. So do many others who know this coastline and this helicopter's operations intimately. On a decision with such potentially catastrophic consequences, there is every need to consult and indeed, the DfT has a duty to do so. This is why I have gone to the Ombudsman and why, I understand, the Ombudsman is prepared to investigate further.'


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