Oops, what do we do now?
The best-laid plans of mice and men, it is said, often go astray. In fact, they did one day last week in the waters of Long Island Sound, off Westchester County, N.Y. And in front of news reporters and cameramen, too. The occasion: alive demonstration of how well the county's rescue procedures integrate the global positioning system (GPS), spotter helicopters, and Marine 4, a shiny new $200,000, 27-foot, four-season police patrol boat. It was to be held just in time for Independence Day weekend, traditionally the first big outing of the summer for pleasure boaters and sport fishermen. With County Executive Andrew Spano looking on, search-and-rescue crewmen fitted a flesh-colored dummy with a life jacket and dropped it into the water as though it had fallen overboard. According to the scenario, the dummy would float until it was spotted by a chopper pilot, who then would transmit the location to the police, using GPS technology. Then a crew in Marine 4 would swoop in, fish the victim out of the water ... and reap the credit in the following day's news coverage. Everything was working perfectly until the helicopter arrived on the scene in New Rochelle harbor. Oh, the pilot found the dummy, all right. Problem was, as he maneuvered for a closer look the powerful downdraft from the rotor blades pushed the dummy out of its vest. You can guess the rest. Without hesitation, the dummy sank before the rescue boat arrived. The crew of Marine 4 did, however, manage to save the life jacket. No word on whether the drill will be staged again, perhaps using a live volunteer.