Law enforcement, emergency personnel train for Fourth of July on Masonboro Island (with video, photo slideshow)

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Expecting more than 3,000 visitors to flock to Masonboro Island for the Fourth of July weekend, local law enforcement and New Hanover Regional Medical Service personnel conducted a training exercise on Monday to prepare emergency responders to take someone off the island via helicopter.

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, Wrightsville Beach Police Department, New Hanover Regional Medical Service, New Hanover County Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard participated in the training exercise. Representatives from each department will be stationed on Masonboro Island and Mason’s Inlet this weekend.

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Members of local law enforcement gather around the Vitalink helicopter to prepare for the training exercise. Photos and video by James Mieczkowski.

The command units will help ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of communication and working together to keep visitors safe, according to New Hanover County sheriff’s deputy Jerry Brewer.

Brewer cited an incident last year when a 21-year-old man was so intoxicated that he needed to be immediately transported off the island to receive medical attention. With expected heavy boat and highway traffic, local authorities wanted to be prepared for one of New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Vitalink helicopters to land on the island.

“Fourth of July is a significant holiday,” Brewer said. “We’re also a tourist town and we want everyone coming out here to have fun, but also be safe…this particular exercise is new to us. We do train with EMS and doing [landing zones] on land but this is a little different.”

The Vitalink Transport Helicopter, which can be compared to flying ambulance, will enable responders to cut transport time to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center drastically. Vitalink Flight Paramedic Brian Gerie said the trip from Masonboro Island to the hospital takes four to five minutes.

But that’s a trip Brewer and local authorities don’t want anyone to make.

“We want everyone to have fun and enjoy the weekend, but be safe, clean up after yourselves, and stay hydrated,” Brewer said.

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