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Westville Community Helipad gets makeover, recertification

The Westville Community Helipad
The Westville Community Helipad

WESTVILLE – A local helipad is operational again thanks to the support of a community.

The Westville Community Helipad recently received makeover and recertification and has recently been used by EHS Life Flight.

In 2005 with the closure of the Shaw Brick emergency helipad in New Glasgow, where the current live fire trainer sits today, there was a need for a place to land the EHS LifeFlight Helicopter for patients requiring air transport.

The Westville Community Helipad was created and served as the primary landing zone for LifeFlight, completing 72 landings until 2008 when the new Aberdeen Hospital Helipad opened.

From 2008 until late 2016 the Westville Community Helipad remained in service, however, it was rarely considered or needed. In November of 2016 following an annual inspection by LifeFlight staff, the Westville Community Helipad was found to be not in compliance with today’s standards and was shut down.

This did not sit well with original committee member Shaun Watters.

“That helipad was built by the community, for the community with financial and material donations from a raft of community groups at the time,” said Watters. “We couldn’t let it just disappear; it still serves a purpose.”

Watters enlisted the help of Bob Ferguson, also a member of the original 2005 committee, and Shaun MacLaughlin, who works with EHS as a paramedic and is also a member of the Westville fire department. Together they looked into what went wrong and led to decertification.

“What we found was that no one had “ownership” of the helipad,” said MacLaughlin.

The fire department would respond when called upon to prepare the helipad for landings and the public works department was clearing it of snow in winter and mowing the grass in summer, but for general upkeep, or replacement of materials such as the 11 required pylons, no one was on paper as being responsible for that, MacLaughlin said.

“That’s where things went downhill and general upkeep fell to the wayside and eventually decertification,” he said.  

Fast forward to 2017. 

Watters, MacLaughlin and Ferguson agreed to form the new Westville helipad committee, take “ownership” and bring the helipad back to life. The trio solicited the help of multiple organizations as they had in the past.

“We had an overwhelming response,” Watters said. “Acklands Grainger donated 11 brand new pylons, Casey Concrete donated 11 patio stones which the new pylons had to be mounted to and Xerox Canada printed us a new sign to be mounted on poles.”

MacLaughlin and Watters met with Westville town council on a number of occasions and were able to secure some financial aid through a grant, to be used to ensure general upkeep does not fall to the wayside again.

The Town of Stellarton’s public works department assisted the committee with the installation of a new gate to help keep unauthorized vehicles from making a mess of the grass helipad. Things really came together nicely,” said Ferguson. These young fellas really poured a lot of time and effort into bringing this important asset back to the community.”

Only three days after receiving official daytime and nighttime certification, the helipad was called into service for a motor vehicle accident in the area. It didn’t sound good at the time and LifeFlight was placed on standby for the Westville Helipad, said MacLaughlin. The fire department responded and prepared for the landing as they had so many times in the past.

“It went like clockwork,” said MacLaughlin. “Thankfully the incident was not as serious as originally reported and LifeFlight was not required so no landing took place; but we were ready.”

In May came an unexpected phone call from EHS. The Aberdeen Helipad was going to be closed for up to seven days unexpectedly to facilitate construction of a portion of the new ER. The Westville Community Helipad was officially once again the primary landing zone for LifeFlight, although temporarily.

The committee said it just shows how important this helipad is to the community. They hope it never has to be used, but it will be ready if needed.

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