WATCH: Medical transport service celebrates historic first flight

Angel Flight East Kootenay takes to the skies with first patient flight to Kelowna

A volunteer airborne medivac service has taken off with its inaugural flight out of Cranbrook, taking an Elk Valley-based patient to the Okanagan for a specialist oncology appointment.

Angel Flight East Kootenay, a volunteer flight service created by Brent Bidston and Todd Weselake, has been in the planning stages for the last few months, but that all came to fruition on Monday morning. Jewel Shepherd, a local medical patient, took to the skies in a Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche en route to Kelowna for a medical appointment that was only expected to take 30 minutes.

Needless to say, a two-hour round trip flight is much more palatable than a 12-hour round trip on the B.C. highways.

“It means a lot, because this way, I now know that I can fly there and get there on time for my appointments,” she said. “That’s really important for me to be able to go there.”

Shepherd said she has been back and forth to the Lower Mainland for medical appointments fairly frequently since the beginning of the year, her last trip being another checkup in Vancouver.

Bidston, who served as a captain with Korean Air in the A330 fleet as part of a 30-year career as a commercial airline pilot, retired to the Elk Valley over a decade ago. He joined B.C. Ambulance Service for a decade and also started up the Elk Valley Air Search and Rescue Association, a division of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA).

Weselake, his Angel Flight East Kootenay partner, has lived in Fernie for the last 20 years, and is an experienced mountain flyer and aviator.

“We are the third group in Canada to be trying to do this,” said Bidston. “I heard about the idea, so I looked into it, but for the southeast of B.C., East Kootenays and West Kootenays, we have a particular problem now that our patients are much more restricted going into Alberta. We always used to send our patients to Calgary, but they are so rushed and so busy now that they’re accepting very few of our patients, so that’s left all of our residents of this area having to go to Kelowna as the nearest advanced care.”

READ: New flight service an ‘angel’ for medical patients

While Angel Flight East Kootenay is a volunteer partnership that primarily serves cancer patients, it is also available for anyone in need that has to travel to the Okanagan for medical appointments.

“Today is quite a good example where they have to go all the way to Kelowna and back for a 30-minute appointment, but it’s an important appointment and it has to be done,” said Bidston.

The fledgling organization recently accepted a $5,500 donation from Teck and has been accepting corporate and private donations, such as from the Elk Valley Thrift Store Society, to get the service off the ground, with enough to finance roughly seven or eight flights.

“We’re pleased to support Angel Flight East Kootenay and their dedicated volunteers who help to connect Elk Valley residents with important health care services,” said Nic Milligan, Teck’s Manager of Social Responsibility..

Anyone who wishes to donate to Angel Flight East Kootenay, can do so through their website.

Bidston says the organization initially wants to conduct flights out of the Elk Valley Airport and the Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook, but adds that there are pilots in the West Kootenay who have expressed interest in volunteering.

“We’re really hoping that this grows as the demand does,” Bidston said.



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City seeks public input on new cannabis retail license

The application must first gather approval from city council before being approved by the province

City of Fernie responds to high water levels

The city is monitoring water levels daily in order to keep residents safe

Ready, Set, Learn bus excites incoming students

EIDES’s Ready, Set, Learn bus delivered early learning packages throughout Fernie

Deer fawning season begins in B.C.

WildSafeBC is reminding people how to react if they come across a deer fawn

The Fernie Academy hockey players sign to play in the NA3HL

Dylan Baker, Chris Consolozio, and Bowen Arola continue their hockey careers in the NA3HL

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C. ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Greater Victoria drive-thru window smashed after man receives burger without mustard

Greater Victoria Wendy’s staff call police after man allegedly rips Plexiglas barrier off window

Most Read