Crews from the Ashland, Mead and Yutan Fire and Rescue used a water rescue vehicle last week to assist with evacuating the final residents in Ashland, Nebraska. A Bellevue fundraiser hopes to buy a hovercraft and other water rescue equipment. 

When an 85-year-old man had to be rescued from his Sands Trailer Park residence in Bellevue last week, firefighters were forced to use a private citizen’s paddle boat to complete the 25-minute rescue.

George Lee and another Bellevue firefighter rowed their way across churning water 3 feet deep to save the man.

To make such rescues safer and more efficient, the Bellevue Public Safety Foundation is raising money to purchase a water hovercraft for water and ice rescues on the Missouri River, Platte River and surrounding lakes and waterways.

The vehicle would allow emergency responders to quickly conduct rescues of multiple victims in swift water, lakes, rivers and on ice.

“In the last week, I think (the need has) proven itself,” said Joe Gibilisco, battalion chief of the Bellevue Fire Department and a board member of the public safety foundation.

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Bellevue and nearby communities have dealt with extreme flooding multiple times in the past decade. Last Friday, firefighters were forced to make a water rescue using small paddle boats with no engines.

The hovercraft, according to the foundation, would allow for immediate deployment on water and land, which would improve response times. It would be available to other communities and agencies as needed.

The funds raised also would be used to purchase a trailer, water rescue protective equipment and communication equipment for the Bellevue Fire Department.

The foundation has set a $60,000 goal.

Donations can be made by mail, in person or online:

» Checks can be mailed to the Bellevue Public Safety Foundation at 505 Cornhusker Road, P.O. Box 259, Bellevue, NE 68005. The subject line should read “Hovercraft”

» Donations can be dropped off at the District 1 Fire Station at 211 W. 22nd Ave. in Bellevue.

» Online donations can be made via GoFundMe by searching “Bellevue Public Safety Foundation: Hovercraft.”

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