Medevac Opponent's Employee Gets a Helicopter Ride

 - November 2, 2006, 5:22 AM

The New Jersey State Police would like to permanently relocate one of the state’s medevac helicopter units to Somerset Airport (SMQ), near the middle of the northern half of the Garden State. But Bedminster township committeeman Kurt Joerger vehemently opposes relocating the helicopter to his district from the roof of a Newark hospital. Joerger is passionate enough that, before running for office, he established a citizens’ group to oppose the move.

After being elected in a disputed vote, Joerger wrote to acting governor Richard Codey in February, calling the helicopter an “unlawful, unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion into the rural region that surrounds the airport.” (Joerger recently bought a 175-acre horse farm near the airport.)

The state police, which operates two medevac Sikorsky S-76s covering the state, has temporary facilities in place at Somerset and says the new location provides much faster access to more territory. That theory appears to have been borne out on April 8, when the Sikorsky responded to a call to help a factory worker in Somerville who had been badly burned in an industrial accident. The owner of the company is committeeman Joerger.

Responding to the call, the helicopter was on the scene in about one minute, according to police, while it would have taken 20 minutes to get there from its previous base–a potentially life-threatening difference. Terry Hoben, air medical coordinator for the state police, commented, “We’ve said in the past that [opponents of the medevac relocation] don’t quite understand until they have a need. I wonder if what we’ve talked about in the past has become a reality.” At press time, the 41-year-old worker was in critical but stable condition.