Classic Lifeguard pilot Dave Rasmussen washes the medical helicopter Thursday at Steamboat Springs Airport. The company was called to do about 20 flights last month.

Photo by Scott Franz

Classic Lifeguard pilot Dave Rasmussen washes the medical helicopter Thursday at Steamboat Springs Airport. The company was called to do about 20 flights last month.

Rescuers, medical providers tout new medical helicopter service in Steamboat

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— Had a medical helicopter not been on call in Steamboat Springs last week, rescuers said an injured man's journey out of a remote part of South Routt County could have been much more difficult.

Classic Lifeguard's Bell 407 was called out July 13 to transport a man who had crashed his all-terrain vehicle on a rugged trail near Heart Lake.

The medical helicopter was able to quickly land in the area and assisted Yampa Fire and Ambulance and Routt County Search and Rescue.

The injured man was stabilized and flown to St. Mary's Hospital.

"Having a helicopter saved a whole lot of time and a whole lot of manpower," Yampa Fire and Ambulance volunteer Angela Bracegirdle said Thursday. "They know their stuff. They did a phenomenal job."

The successful rescue mission and transport has been a highlight of a new medical helicopter here in Steamboat.

Classic Lifeguard now has operated out of the Steamboat Springs Airport for nearly five months, and local medical providers said that having the medical chopper so close has shortened response times in some situations.

Up until March, the closest medical helicopter came from Frisco.

Paula Golden, the director of Yampa Valley Medical Center's emergency department, said that when the weather cooperates, having a locally based helicopter service is beneficial to the community.

"We've had a very warm welcome from everyone around, from hospitals to EMS providers to search and rescue," flight medic and Steamboat base manager Dan Harris said Thursday at Classic Lifeguard's hangar at Steamboat Springs Airport.

Harris said that while the initial months of service were slow, flights have started picking up and are exceeding expectations.

He said the helicopter took 20 flights last month, with most flights called to transport patients to and from area hospitals.

Sometimes when the chopper isn't on a call, Harris said the pilots will train by doing such things as landing on nearby mountain peaks and testing out the power management on the chopper.

The chopper also has been brought to several community events and trainings, including a drunken driving crash simulation in Oak Creek and active shooter drills at area schools.

"We've only just been scratching the surface as far as people we'd like to contact and work with," Harris said.

Classic Lifeguard's medical helicopter is on call at all times and is staffed by a pilot, medic and nurse.

Harris said the company just secured new living quarters for its on-call flight crews near Steamboat's airport.

He said four nurses, medics and pilots, many of whom now live locally, rotate shifts.

"Everyone has been excited to have this resource here," Harris said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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