Chopper’s arrival delayed

A $1.8 million helicopter being shipped to the island by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service will not be arriving this month as was first thought.

The 1999 Eurocopter EC 135-T1 model is in the US being reassembled and painted and is now expected to arrive here in mid to late October.

‘It had to be disassembled in England, shipped to the states and reassembled there,’ police spokesperson Deborah Denis said. ‘So it’s at Eurocopter (in the US) being worked on.’

The hold up is largely the result of ‘unavoidable delays’ with a contractor the police are using to reassemble the aircraft, according to Ms Denis. The delays are not believed to be caused by any mechanical difficulties with the helicopter.

The police helicopter has been the source of some controversy since government first proposed buying one for the exclusive use of the RCIPS.

Most recently, some residents in South Sound have complained to the Caymanian Compass about late-night helicopter operations in their area, which were apparently related to police activity.

One man wrote a letter that stated he was awakened by a helicopter hovering about 100 feet above the South Sound Cemetery in the early morning hours of 15 September. The man said the chopper was shining a searchlight into the sea. The man also reported vehicles with searchlights in the area at about the same time.

‘What was the cause of all this excitement?’ he wrote in the letter. ‘I think we should be told.’

The RCIPS confirmed that the aircraft owned by Cayman Helicopters was being operated in the South Sound that morning at police request.

‘On this occasion the helicopter was operating on official police business; however, due to on-going operational reasons, we cannot confirm the nature of its activities,’ said Ms Denis.

Until the police helicopter arrives on island, RCIPS will continue to rent the Cayman Helicopters craft on an as-needed basis.

‘Residents of the Cayman Islands should rest assured, the helicopter is only used when required,’ Ms Denis said.

The South Sound incident was not the only time the helicopter’s use has caused concern among Cayman Islands residents.

On 30 January, the helicopter was seen by dozens of people who had gathered near the Bodden Town Civic Centre. Police said the aircraft had been used to assist in the arrest of two men who officers said were engaging in illegal lobster fishing.

When questioned about the incident in April at a press briefing, Commissioner Stuart Kernohan said the helicopter was sent to the scene because the call was initially reported as an officer needing assistance with multiple suspects.

Mr. Kernohan has said on many occasions that air support is a part of most modern police operations.

In the Cayman Islands, Commissioner Kernohan said the helicopter would not only be used for policing, but also for search and rescue and border protection purposes.

Mr. Kernohan has said one the helicopter’s biggest successes was the February seizure of a fast canoe in North Side that was believed to have carried more than 1,000 pounds of ganja to Cayman’s shores. Five people on board the boat were arrested after they were tracked down by the helicopter and officers with the Marine Unit.

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