BUFFALO, N.Y. — With warmer weather approaching, more people will be venturing out to our county parks and beautiful, but wild locations like Zoar Valley. It can be enjoyable but at times also dangerous. Over the recent years, we've seen various rescue efforts when people are careless.
Now the Erie County Sheriff's Office is bringing new technology and vehicles to those rescue units.
It can be a somewhat rugged natural setting like Zoar Valley or Chestnut Ridge Park. They also have a very confined space like an underground tunnel. Rescue teams from the Erie County Sheriff's Office and other agencies are called in to help find and retrieve injured people in various location, and in such cases, time can be precious.
So the county legislature this past week okayed the purchase of a new specially equipped rope rescue truck. Currently deputies who are part of the rope rescue teams respond individually with their equipment in patrol vehicles. Erie County Sheriff's Office spokesman Scott Zylka says "This truck can respond immediately, can go off road and get closer to an incident which is important, save the fatigue of deputies carrying heavy, bulky equipment to a site and now it's all condensed into one truck."
Also to help locate a victim from the skies and especially if the sheriff's Air One helicopter is not available (as it is right now with required downtime maintenance) they also bought a new sophisticated drone.
Zylka tells 2 On Your Side "We have other unmanned drones out there but this one has special capabilities that can really expand the search and rescue operations for Buffalo Fire, for us , for any other law enforcement, any other search and rescue organization in the area."
Zylka points out that it doesn't require GPS, WIFI, or line of sight control and can be used in confined spaces. He adds that could have helped find a missing contract worker last fall at the Sewer Authority treatment plant. He tragically died in October after falling into a maintenance tunnel prompting a search.
As for cost of this new equipment, technically no tax dollars are involved. The Sheriff's office got legislature approval to take nearly $216,000 dollars from the seized asset and property forfeiture program set up by the feds. It allows local law enforcement to take and sell equipment from drug dealers or other criminals.
That money will also help buy a special pickup truck to safely transport dangerous drug materials like fentanyl in the covered truck bed. Such substances could seriously injure or kill a deputy or others with exposure inside a vehicle as seized substances are being take to a lab for analysis.