Stockton Metro City Support
A half-dozen communities in San Joaquin County now have access to a helicopter for emergencies, such as search and rescue.
Since the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department grounded its helicopter this year there hasn't been an aircraft available specifically for law enforcement or fire departments in the entire county.
So Tim Ray a helicopter pilot created Stockton Metro Air Support, a non-profit organization to provide aerial support to police and fire departments. Ray obtained a surplus military chopper, found other pilots to donate their time, and collected a quarter of a million dollars in corporate and private contributions to maintain the operation.
Ray says the aircraft can respond to a variety of missions.
"Search and rescue, lost kids, law enforcement missions such as pursuit."
Escalon Fire Chief Terry Pinheiro says the helicopter could be the difference between life and death in potential drowning situations.
"They could cover territory in a matter of minutes that would take us hours."
Participating agencies can call anytime for assistance and there's never a charge.
A number of other communities in San Joaquin County are expected to join the program.