Mon, Mar 18, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Minister to probe rescue delay in Penghu death


Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) yesterday promised a thorough probe to find out if a delay in police air rescue operations contributed to the death of a village chief in the offshore island county of Penghu.

Yu made the promise to the bereaved family of Chen Sheng-hsiung (陳勝雄), Tunghu village chief, who died Thursday allegedly after a police helicopter squad had not immediately responded to an emergency airlift request.

"We'll look into whether police were responsible," Yu said during an inspection tour of the southern county of Kaohsiung.

The minister said he was told the helicopter squad first received a phone call from someone who identified himself as a doctor with the public health office in Chen's hometown at around 7pm Thursday.

"As I understand," Yu said, "the squad staff were not sure whether the distress call was a hoax.

"So they asked the Penghu health office to apply for helicopter service. ... That's a standard operating procedure."

The squad has received hoax SOS calls.

After a delay, Chen was finally airlifted to Kaohsiung. He died from massive stomach bleeding.

Yu said the Ministry of the Interior will investigate the case to determine whether there was any dereliction of duty or misconduct on the part of police.

"We'll also make an overall review of the existing emergency medical care system for residents on outlying islands and in other remote regions," Yu said.

"At any rate, we'll adopt measures to make our emergency rescue system more flexible and convenient for those who desperately need assistance."

In view of the situation faced by outlying island residents, Yu said the ministry is considering authorizing the airborne police to start rescue operations after verifying distress calls, with mandatory administrative procedures being completed later.

As Penghu, one of the nation's fishing hubs, has limited medical facilities, its county government has a contract with Der An Airline to lease its BK-117 helicopter for airlifting seriously ill patients to Taiwan proper for medical treatment.

As the helicopter was undergoing repair and maintenance Thursday, it couldn't come to Chen's rescue in time, airline sources said.

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