State Police air wing called on hundreds of times a year
On a sunny and seasonably comfortable April afternoon, a 5-year-old Reading girl played at her John Carver Road home with her babysitter while her mother took her older brother to a birthday party.
Wanting to nap, the girl snuggled up on her parents’ bed under the pillows, without telling her babysitter where she was going. When the babysitter went to check on the child, she couldn’t find her. Nor could the girl’s mother when she returned home.
Fearing the worst, the girl’s mother called 911, and at 4:35 p.m., Reading police went into action – sending seven officers to the house, reviewing a list of sex offenders within a mile radius of the home and notifying the Reading Fire Department, the North Reading Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police.
Within an hour, State Police had dispatched one of four Air Wing helicopters – a twin-engine multi-purpose chopper called a Eurocopter AS-355N Twinstar – to help locate the missing youngster. The flight represented just one of some 444 missions the Air Wing conducted between September 2007 and September 2008 to look for lost, missing or wanted people.
In this case, the helicopter wasn’t needed. Nearly 10 minutes into the 16-mile flight from the Lawrence airport, the two-man crew of the chopper -- equipped with cameras, GPS and a video downlink system – were told that the child, Erin Mulvey, had been found asleep behind the pillows on her parents’ bed.
But there have been plenty of times that the Air Wing has been nothing short of life-saving.