State Highway Patrol could lose half its helicopter fleet - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

State Highway Patrol could lose half its helicopter fleet

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On Tuesday, 68-year-old Dorothy Schnabel took her dog, Duchess, for a walk. When she didn't return, her husband called 911.

"I'll tell ya," he said. "I was really impressed with the Sheriff's Department, because there must have been fifty some people out here."

But all those people couldn't find Schnabel. Fifteen hours after she went missing, it was a state Highway Patrol chopper that finally spotted her in tall grass near her home.

"There's no doubt in our minds that it saved her life," says Cabarrus County Sheriff Brad Riley.

But others may not be so lucky, because state budget cuts could ground half of the Highway Patrol's helicopters.

Riley hopes lawmakers lose the idea.

"It's not every day that you use a helicopter," Riley says, "but at the same time when you use it one time such as yesterday, there's not a price tag that you can put on the value of that service."

The helicopters are expensive to run and Riley says they don't get used often. But he also says lawmakers need to weigh those facts with the deep impact the helicopters can have.

"They're saving lives out there or they're capturing a major fugitives," he says. "And without that resource those things will go away."

The North Carolina House and Senate will do no formal work next week, but reps say the budget talks will continue.


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