In recognition of his daughter Gabriella’s fourth birthday this month

Red Deer the top destination for STARS air ambulance

This year, STARS air ambulance will find out what its two new bigger and faster helicopters can do.

This year, STARS air ambulance will find out what its two new bigger and faster helicopters can do.

On Feb. 5, the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society started day flights with its newest AW139 helicopter from its Calgary base. A few weeks later, it was also in the air at night.

The Edmonton STARS base began flying its AW139 last August.

“We’ll be able to look back with both the helicopters in full operation throughout the year and look at the statistics and analyze the benefits,” Cam Heke, STARS spokesperson, said Tuesday.

Heke said the new Calgary copter was supposed to arrive last summer, but was delayed until October, then training was required.

The AW139 flies at about 278 km/h, about 20 per cent faster than their smaller BK117 helicopters.

Heke said with quicker capability, STARS is already seeing more calls for service.

“(AW139) also allows us to fly in more difficult weather. It’s got a de-icing capability, which our other aircraft do not have.”

Two patients can fit in the AW139, while the BK117 typically handles one.

He said the big red AW139s are easier to spot in the sky.

“We tweet most of our missions so the general public, if they are ever curious, they can follow our Twitter feed.”

In 2013, STARS responded to 1,688 calls from its three bases in Edmonton, Calgary and Grande Prairie.

Red Deer was the most frequent STARS destination with 61 flights, followed by 40 flights to Lethbridge.

In recent years, Red Deer and Lethbridge hospitals have taken turns having the most visits from STARS.

Heke said both cities are hubs for patients in their surrounding areas. But Red Deer is unique because helicopters from both Edmonton and Calgary can respond.

“If one of our bases is out on a call somewhere because there is some other emergency, we can often still respond because you’re right between the bases.”

Slightly more flights to Red Deer come out of Calgary as Edmonton is a busier base.

He said Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre provides a typical landing for STARS in terms of geography and a clear flight path — which is good since it’s a frequent destination.

Last year, 68 per cent of STARS flights were to health facilities around Alberta and 37 per cent went straight to incident scenes, like a highway, remote worksite or open field. Emergency personnel throughout the province, mostly firefighters, are trained to assist in landing at scenes.

Traumatic injury accounts for 49 per cent of STARS calls and 51 per cent are other medical calls.

Apart from patient transportation, five per cent of flights are for search and rescue. STARS pilots have night vision goggles and helicopters are equipped with large spotlights to assist police and others.

Andrew Towers and Christina Gagne (who died in 2013), of Red Deer, were glad in 2010 that STARS helicopters came so prepared.

On April 20 of that year, their daughter Gabriella was born in Red Deer at 29 weeks old, weighing only 1.35 kg (three pounds). Her lungs weren’t fully developed and she was flown by STARS to Calgary Foothills Hospital.

Towers said the STARS flight crew had a calming affect as soon as they entered Red Deer’s special care nursery.

“They came in with their helmets and flight suits and just took over. It was very clear they knew exactly what they were doing and highly specialized,” Towers said.

He said it never occurred to him that the crew would include a respiratory therapist and neonatal intensive care nurse specifically to assist their daughter.

Towers, owner of HearWell Audiology Clinics Inc., is raising money for STARS this month at his business in celebration of Gabriella’s fourth birthday.

About 70 per cent of STARS $30-million operating budget in Alberta comes from fundraising and donations, including the STARS Lottery.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Blackfalds firefighter battling cancer

A volunteer firefighter in Blackfalds for 15 years, Dave Sutherland now battling… Continue reading

Red Deer transit users are concerned about the future

But recreation centre users are glad facility hours were maintained

Community cardiac awareness dinner and show to be held

Continued focus to bring cardiac catheterization lab to Red Deer

Red Deer businesses react to 2.02 per cent tax increase for 2018

Chamber would prefer zero increase, while DBA thinks it’s reasonable

Bring on the rodeo says Red Deer County mayor

Canadian Finals Rodeo’s move to Red Deer good for whole region, says Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

RDC chosen to host 2019 men’s volleyball national championship

Sports enthusiasts in Red Deer will have more to look forward to… Continue reading

Police is still looking for Second World War army passport owner

No one has claimed a rare Second World War German army passport… Continue reading

DJ Sabatoge and TR3 Band kick off Sylvan Lake’s Winterfest 2018

Central Alberta’s youngest DJ will open for TR3 Band kicking off Town… Continue reading

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month