Water rescues in Douglas County will become a little safer in the near future, thanks to the recent purchase of an airboat by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office (DCSO).
Airboats, also referred to as fanboats, are most often seen in the Florida Everglades. They are often used as a way of navigating shallow waters where a normal propeller cannot be submerged.
The boats have flat bottoms and their propellers are fan-like. Their propellers are closed in a metal cage that prevents any objects from interfering with them. This allows the airboat to navigate both land and various depths of water, while also being able to maneuver over obstacles.
The total cost for the airboat was $76,659. The purchase was possible due to a $45,000 grant and a $20,000 donation from Central Specialties, in addition to $10,000 from the DSCO.
The donation from Central Specialties was donated by the Minnerath family in memory of 50-year-old James Minnerath and his 2-year-old grandson Hayden Minnerath, who fell through weak ice last winter. Neither survived.
"I guess its purpose was in the memory of our brother and our grand-nephew," said John Minnerath, brother of James Minnerath.
Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen says that the DCSO decided to purchase the airboat due to the sheer amount of water in the area. Additionally, the purchase will decrease risks in ice and other water rescues and recoveries.
"Obviously our county has a lot of water," he said. "In the past we've had a number of incidents that have required a rescue-type response," he said. "This type of watercraft can go over land or cattails, and can be used in weak ice conditions. There are all kinds of different scenarios that do occur in our county."
The 18-foot by 8-foot airboat is currently being built in Texas and is expected to be delivered in mid-to-late February, in time for the remainder of the winter season in Minnesota.
"It's so versatile," Wolbersen said. "I really think it will help us make safer and quicker responses when we need it."