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Charleston loses SAR helo

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The U.S. Coast Guard plans to close on Nov. 30 its remote air facility in Johns Island, S.C., which houses one of five area search-and-rescue helicopters.

The nearest station — in Savannah, Ga., 80 miles south — will be cut back to three helicopters for rescue missions that span from mid-Florida to the North Carolina line.

Rescues would continue to be undertaken by boats moored in Charleston and other Coast Guard ports. Other support would include fixed wing aircraft from an air station in Elizabeth City, N.C., more than 300 miles away, according to a story in Charleston’s Post & Courier newspaper.

The Coast Guard defended the Charleston facility closure by citing a 43 percent drop in search and rescue missions, from 153 in 2011 to 86 in 2014.

“This change to the search-and-rescue system does not impact the Coast Guard’s capability to respond,” Carlos Diaz, of the service’s media relations team, told the newspaper. “In addition to decreasing SAR cases, recent investment in the SAR system, with more capable assets and better technology to detect and locate distress, has reduced the required number of response assets.”

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