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Children get close look at 'Life Lion'

December 09, 1998

Life Lion HelicopterBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




MONT ALTO, Pa. - With a high-pitched whine rather than a roar, the Life Lion helicopter descended onto a field at the Penn State Mont Alto campus on Wednesday.

A group of 14 Head Start students from Greencastle, Pa., pressed their faces against a chain-link fence as the rotors of the helicopter wound to a halt. Once they were allowed onto the field, they swarmed over the Aerospatiale Dauphin 2 Medevac helicopter.

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"It's for when people get in accidents. It comes for them and brings them to the hospital," Naomi Rake, 5, said in summing up Life Lion's mission.

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Rake and the other pre-schoolers were there as guests of the Penn State Mont Alto Student Nurses Club.

Club President Troy Landes said the club's goal is "to further our educations and couple that with some community service."

Landes said the Head Start children toured the nursing lab and acted as patients to the club members, who practiced some bandaging skills on them.

"Up to this point we haven't had much experience with kids," he said. Firefighters and ambulance personnel from the Mont Alto Volunteer Fire Co. also took part in Wednesday's event.

John J. Hrabovsky has been a flight nurse with Life Lion for five years. A certified emergency nurse, he waited 10 years to get the Life Lion job.

According to Hrabovsky, slots on Life Lion are hard to come by because those who get them don't give them up easily. The French-built helicopter he works in was bought new in 1991 for $4.8 million, fully equipped for transporting trauma patients.

It can cruise at 180 mph and made the trip from Hershey, Pa., a distance of more than 50 miles, in 21 minutes.

Hrabovsky said there are two Life Lions at Hershey Medical Center, another in Danville, Pa., and a fourth that splits time between Bellefonte and Phillipsburg. He said his chopper makes three to five trips a day.

"We're in service, so if we get a call we'll go," Hrabovsky said. Within about 15 minutes of its arrival, an emergency call came.

The children were quickly unloaded from the helicopter and it was soon airborne.

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