Newport fighting to keep USCG rescue helicopter - KPTV - FOX 12

Newport fighting to keep USCG rescue helicopter

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Hundreds attended a community meeting in Newport Monday to try and save the USCG air station. Hundreds attended a community meeting in Newport Monday to try and save the USCG air station.

The Coast Guard air station in Newport, along the central Oregon coast, is being closed at the end of November – but not without a fight.

The closure was announced in early October as a result of national budget restrictions and will be effective Nov. 30. The USCG says it will still have a presence in Newport and will respond to emergencies, but the next closest rescue helicopter will be coming from North Bend – an hour away.

Hundreds of people gathered at a community meeting Monday night to voice their concerns over the move and send the message that losing the rescue helicopter will cost lives.

"In this region, in this cold water, an hour is a death sentence. You're not doing search and rescue; you're doing body recovery," Ginny Goblirsch said at the meeting.

USCG Rear Admiral R.T. Gromlich also addressed the crowd, acknowledging that the decision to close the station was made "at the highest levels of government" and was out of his hands.

"It's hard and it's personal, and rightfully so," Gromlich said. "I can't do anything about that in terms of the closure date or offer to delay the closing in any way… I know a lot of you probably came here tonight hoping to hear something different and I'm sorry I can't tell you anything different."

Several people made public comments at Monday's meeting, hoping their voices will be heard in Washington D.C. and will save the air station.

Kate Hasley was among them.

She lost her husband years ago when his boat overturned during a photography trip with a friend. The rescue helicopter was in North Bend at the time, and got there 10 minutes too late.

"Witnesses saw my husband standing on a sand bar in the middle of the bay looking for help. He was last seen at 1:52 p.m., and he slipped away and was never recovered. The helicopter arrived at 2:02 p.m.," Hasley told Fox 12. "It's my story. It's just going to be a lot more prevalent if they move that helicopter."

The Newport Fishermen's Wives group collected 18,000 petition signatures hoping to save the helicopter to better protect their husbands and others working in the region.

The USCG says the air station is still set to close at the end of November.

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