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'If we lose vital rescue helicopters, people could die'.

Lifeboat volunteers who rely on RAF Boulmer's helicopters greeted news of the review with concern, saying lives could be put at risk.

Last year the station's Sea Kings responded to 155 emergency calls; this year there have already been 151.

The aircrews also work with Northumberland National Park's search and rescue teams and have assisted in rescues in the Lake District, Scottish Highlands and Grampians.

Ian Clayton, who serves with Seahouses lifeboat, said if it hadn't been for the 202 crew, many incidents would have been tragedies instead. "Particularly in the last few months we have seen the aircrew from Boulmer involved in a great many high-speed rescues.

"In recent cases where divers have suffered from the bends, the helicopter has been instrumental in getting the casualties to the decompression chambers at Aberdeen and Hull. By land or sea that would have been impossible."

Less than a fortnight ago, a holidaying family had to be plucked from the roof of their car by a Boulmer Sea King, after being caught by the tide on Holy Island causeway.

Mr Clayton said: "We would view the loss of air cover from Boulmer as very serious indeed, because people could die as a result."
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 29, 2003
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