Following a summer that had a tremendously high increase in the number of drownings across Israel, and in specific on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), United Hatzalah initiated a campaign for a new ambulance that will ride the waves of the freshwater lake that sees hundreds of thousands of annual swimmers and beachgoers. On Sunday, that dream became a reality as the newest ambulance in the emergency medical organization’s fleet took its maiden voyage on the waters of the Kinneret.
Chapter head of United Hatzalah of Tiberias (Tevaria) and the region Yossi Vaknin spoke about the new addition to the organization’s maritime fleet: “The new ambulance boat brings with it many capabilities that we did not have in the past. Capabilities that will help our teams on the water save more lives by both getting to those who need assistance faster and begin treatment sooner.”
The first improvement made on the new boat is that it contains a wide area on the deck that will allow the rescue teams to begin treatment of injured or drowned persons during transport while still on the water. Another important addition is the inclusion of underwater sonar tracking devices that will help the team search for missing or drowned people.
Vaknin listed a few other innovations that the new maritime ambulance includes: “Due to the increased size of the boat we can sail during stormy weather, whereas before we had to head back to dock and wait out storms before we could mount a rescue. The new model also includes a closed room for the sailing team and for the treatment of patients. This will allow us to embark on rescue missions and transport patients during the cold winter months. This is a marked improvement that will make a big difference when it comes to rescues that are conducted on the lake.”
The boat, which has been inaugurated as Salty Mec II, is named after a boat that was sailed by Bernard Manger. Bernard’s daughter Renee Manger, orchestrated the donation of the boat through the B.L. Manger Foundation. Renee dedicated the rescue boat in memory of her father and twin brother.
Manger explained that when she was young, her father had a fishing boat called the Salty Mec. Her childhood memories are filled with being out on the water with her family. As soon as the idea of donating a boat to save lives in Israel came up, the board of the foundation immediately knew that this was how they wanted to support United Hatzalah.
“One of the big needs in the country is an ambulance on the Kinneret,” said President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer. “Every time there is a case of a missing person on the lake or a suspected drowning, rescue teams need to borrow equipment from the navy in order to conduct a search. Getting the equipment in place and setting it up takes time and money. We needed to find a way to incorporate the right equipment on rescue boats that would already be in service in the area, and thus cut down the time it takes to mount a rescue. Salty Mec II will help us do just that.”
The team that will operate the ambulance boat will include paramedics and EMTs with diving experience from the Tevaria chapter of United Hatzalah led by Vaknin himself.
“With regards to our existing rescue boat, we will still be using it for search and rescue missions on the lake,” said Vaknin. “It will also be used for additional crews to be on the lake during the summer months when it is considered “high season” for swimmers. However, the main workload for patrols, rescues, and treating those injured on the water will now transfer over to Salty Mec II, as the capabilities of this new maritime rescue vehicle far outweigh those of our previous boat. The people of Israel are indebted to everyone who made this ambulance boat a reality,” Vaknin concluded.
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