Public Information Officer
AIR ONE CREW GRABS NATIONAL FLIR AWARD
The southbound 1989 Ford Bronco driving erratically along U.S. 1 had gotten the attention of an Ormond Beach police officer. The officer didn’t know it yet, but he would soon find out that the vehicle was stolen.
The officer activated his lights and siren and initiated a traffic stop. The vehicle slowly rolled to a stop on Fleming Avenue, but moments later the driver bolted out the door and took off running through the parking lot of a shopping plaza on South Yonge Street. The suspect made his way to a fenced compound at a local storage facility, where the search continued.
The suspect might have gotten away if not for the aerial support provided by the Sheriff’s Office helicopter crew of pilot Mike Markovich and flight paramedic/flight observer Dave Swartzfager along with the infrared FLIR technology strapped to the belly of the craft. The duo’s assistance on that morning on Oct. 25, 2004 not only led to the suspect’s capture. It also earned the crew a prestigious national FLIR Vision Award.
Sponsored by FLIR systems, the Vision Awards recognize law enforcement agencies for innovative use of tactical airborne thermal imagery. Each year, video footage shot by law enforcement during rescues, pursuits, apprehensions and surveillance operations compete for the national award.
The award-winning video was shot by Air One after Ormond Beach Police sent out a request for assistance. Just before 5 a.m., after circling the area for about a half-hour, the helicopter crew through the on-board FLIR system detected a faint heat source coming from a covered boat. The helicopter crew directed a K-9 unit on the ground to the boat, where the suspect was found hiding under a tarp. The suspect later pled no contest to grand theft auto and obstructing an officer without violence and is currently incarcerated at the Apalachee Correctional Institution serving a 13 month sentence.
The first place Vision Award was presented to the Sheriff’s Office in July. It came with a commemorative plaque, matching leather jackets for the crew and a $1,000 charitable donation which has been designated for the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches.