‘Just know that we’re coming’: Hovercraft changes the game for Oak Island Water Rescue

OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) — Oak Island Water Rescue has a new device that will take them places they’ve never been before and change the way they respond to rescue calls.

Thanks to a generous donor, the Oak Island Water Rescue team purchased a custom-made Neoteric Hovercraft from Indiana in January and they’ve been training on the craft ever since.

The device will change the way the team responds to calls, Chief Tony Young says it will reduce response times and allow them to go places they’ve never been able to go before.

“We got it so we can go back into the marshes, in the areas where we can’t go with the boat and we’ve also found out in the past that we can’t walk there either because the mud’s too soft,” Young said.

Designed more similarly to an aircraft than a boat, the device relies on fans to create lift and thrust so it hovers above the surface of the water, sand, marsh, and mud.

It stays in place as well, and it won’t tip over when crews lean over the side to pull patients into the craft. The team has not made any rescues with it yet, but with 30+ hours of training under their belt, they’ll be prepared when the time comes.

“We’re trying to make it to where there’s no place that you can get yourself into trouble that we can’t come and get you and this takes a large chunk out of that,” Young said.

Chief Young reflected on a time last year when the team was not able to get to two kayakers who were trapped in the mud because their boat couldn’t reach them and when rescuers tried walking to the women they sank waist-deep into the mud.

They called on the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office to bring the airboat in for the rescue and they were able to rescue to kayakers. Young says it was unacceptable for him that the OIWR team was not able to provide assistance themselves, especially if the boaters had been injured. Thanks to this device, this will no longer be a problem the team will face.

“I’m not going to rest until we’re able to get you wherever you are and you know hopefully something like this is going to save people’s lives one day that might not have otherwise survived because now we can get there and before we couldn’t,” Young said.

Not only will the Town of Oak Island benefit from the craft, so will the surrounding areas thanks to the organization’s mutual aid agreement that allows neighboring communities to call in the team if they need extra help.

“I want everybody to be smart and try not to get into these situations but I want them to have confidence my team’s ready. We’re going to come get you no matter where you are now,” Young said. “People can…I don’t want to say relax because everyone should remain vigilant, but just know that we’re coming.”

Oak Island Water Rescue is a non-profit and relies on donations to fund equipment upgrades and purchase new equipment like the hovercraft. If you would like to donate or learn more about the organization, visit their website.

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