Care Flight lands in Truckee |

Care Flight lands in Truckee

Christina Nelson

With the growing population and influx of tourists during the winter and summer, Care Flight’s number of calls to the Truckee-North Tahoe area has increased to the point that the organization will soon station a helicopter at the Truckee Tahoe Airport.

“It’s a growing area with a highway and the ski resorts and with recreation,” said John Morrison, director of critical care services for Care Flight.

Anyone who has ever had to ride in a Care Flight helicopter will argue what an asset it can be to a community.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be walking,” said Michael Golden, an incoming board member for the Truckee Tahoe Airport District.

On Jan. 26, 1986, Golden was paralyzed from the waist down after an accident at a Truckee-area ski resort.

“These folks came up here on a call from [Tahoe Forest Hospital] when TFH realized I was in immediate danger and needed to get to Washoe [Medical Center in Reno],” Golden said.

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Starting at the beginning of 2003, Care Flight, a division of the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority, will station a helicopter at the airport.

In the beginning the helicopter will only be at the airport 12 hours a day, seven days a week, but may eventually be stationed at the airport 24 hours a day as the population of the area increases.

Most of Care Flight’s calls are for recreation-related injuries or highway accidents, Morrison said.

At the November board meeting, REMSA staff presented the helicopter to board members and the public. The helicopter – an MD900 Explorer – comes equipped with items found in most intensive care units.

“The equipment has the same capabilities, but it’s a lot smaller,” Morrison said, adding that working on a Care Flight helicopter requires some adjustment. “We do a lot of scene work, so we’re working on highways or fields.”

As development in the Martis Valley and Truckee continues, Care Flight services will become more and more important.

“This is where a lot of our patient volume comes from,” said Herb Brady, president of REMSA in Reno.

Transporting a patient from Truckee to Washoe Medical Center takes about 12 minutes in a Care Flight helicopter. Patients will also be transported to Tahoe Forest Hospital.

“About half the flights we do are at the site of the emergency,” Brady said.

The airport and REMSA are still working out details as to where the helicopter will be stationed and how much REMSA will pay for storage costs. For now, the organization’s local administration will be located at the Martis Valley Fire station.

The airport district could not comment on the cost of the helicopter or if it will affect district taxpayers.

But Airport General Manager Dave Gotschall noted that nobody wants to ride in a Care Flight helicopter, but if they have to, they’re glad it’s there.