The Cheboygan County Sheriff’s Department in Michigan purchased a Hovertechnics Hoverguard 800 to improve its search and rescue capabilities. Sheriff Dale Clarmont says, "We bought it because this craft was designed to actually fly over surfaces. It flies over land, ice, and open water, so we can use it during all four seasons. The reason we chose the Hovertechnics Hoverguard 800 is that it was one of the largest hovercraft manufactured at that time, so it allows us to load the entire search and rescue team into the craft, with gear.”
In the first four years that the Department has had the hovercraft, it has become a critical part of their search & rescue operations and has been credited with saving five lives so far. Two of those rescues earned Lifesaving Medals for the first responders conducting the operations.
In one of these rescues occurred when a 63-year-old man broke through the ice while snowmobiling on a lake near the mouth of the Cheboygan River. Michigan State Police Sgt. Mark Tamlyn said the man’s body temperature had quickly fallen to 89 degrees. He credited the quick response by search and rescue personnel – and the hovercraft – for saving the man’s life despite blowing snow, poor visibility, icy conditions and open water.
“Had we not had the hovercraft we would have been delayed in getting to him,” Sgt. Tamlyn said, “In this situation, minutes count.”
Sheriff Clarmont added, “There was absolutely no way you could have gotten to him and saved him with any equipment other than a hovercraft … It’s a great tool for us.”
Besides its critical role as a lifesaving tool, the hovercraft also fills a secondary role in crime prevention. The hovercraft and its crew collaborate with Border Patrol units to search the Mackinac Straits for drug smugglers.