Black Hawks to be used in water rescue training

  • Thursday, January 9, 2014

Scott Harper/Times This photo from the SC HART training exercise in July, 2010 shows one of the types of rescue missions in which the organization participates.

Stranded in the cold Waccamaw River. Hoping and praying someone will save you before you drown or hyperthermia sets in.

You fight to stay above water then, you see it. A Black Hawk helicopter is racing to the rescue. In the nick of time, you are pulled from the water and flown to safety.

That may be one of the scenarios when the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SC HART) performs training exercises Jan. 31 - Feb. 2 along the Waccamaw Neck.

A division of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, SC HART is a collaborative effort between the State Urban and Rescue Task Force, the State Emergency Management Division and the Army National Guard Aviation Unit.

SC HART holds training exercises each quarter in different parts of the state. They last held a drill on the Waccamaw Neck in July, 2010.

Daniel McManus, assistant state fire marshal, said most of the rescues conducted by SC HART are in the mountain areas but they do assist, when needed, all over the state.

In 2011 the team helped rescue a hunter who shot himself in the leg and was stuck on North Island for about four hours.

On Jan. 31, the SC HART training will take place at Bucksport Marina but will move to Reserve Harbor Marina the following day.

Waccamaw Intermediate School will be used as the base of operations for the 42 SC HART members during the Feb. 1 training.

Because district property is being used, a presentation was made to the Georgetown County School Board Tuesday detailing the drill plans. Chief Warrant Officer Sean Reynolds said two Black Hawk helicopters will be used to rescue the actors who will be in the Waccamaw River.

He said to try to keep the mission from being quite as intrusive, the helicopters will fly around the homes and golf courses in the area.

He said “there should always be an aircraft in the air” between 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the day of the training.

Midway Fire Rescue will provide assistance, Reynolds said.

McManus said even though the water will be cold, February was chosen because there will be few, if any, boats in the water. In 2010 the waterway had to be sealed off while the training took place.

At the same time the SC HART exercises are taking place, a bigger training session will be going on in Bucksport and at the Myrtle Beach International Airport.

That will be a joint military exercise called Palmetto Thunder which will involve hundreds of emergency officials from Georgetown and Horry counties as well as military personnel.

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