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Published April 05 2011

Two new airboats bolster Cass County's search and rescue capabilities

WEST FARGO - The two new airboats acquired by the Cass County Sheriff’s Department mean more than sleek metal, a double-propeller and a high-powered engine.

They symbolize independence from having to rely on federal agency resources for water search and rescue missions – a vital need especially in the midst of yet another spring flood.

With two specially modified airboats now in hand, Cass County deputies trained for the department’s “Otter Team” plan to begin practicing in the field this afternoon.

Airboat crews should be in the water every day this week, patrolling the Red River and other area rivers, Sheriff Paul Laney said.

During previous floods, Cass County deputies depended on vehicles and equipment brought in by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Coast Guard.

But thanks to a $292,000 grant from the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, the Cass County Sheriff’s Department purchased its own search and rescue equipment – including two custom-designed Panther airboats that were built to handle the harsh conditions of the Red River Valley.

“What this is going to give us is a search and rescue team capability that we’ve never had before,” Laney said. “That will only further enhance our abilities to protect our citizens.”

The Cass County Search and Rescue Team is comprised of six Cass County deputies and members of Valley Water Rescue, who are sworn reserve deputies.

For more on this story, read Wednesday’s Forum.