IT was a proud day on Saturday when members of the North Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team held a launch party for their new control vehicle at Belstone.

The official opening ceremony was attended by members of the team - including rescue dogs - along with some of the people who had contributed to buying and fitting out the vehilcle.

It replaces the old vehilce which is no longer fit for purpose, and allows the team - who conduct rescues on the moor - to coordinate rescues in remote spots where there are no buildings for miles around. In searches for missing people, the police will also use their vehicle as a base. It is fitted with GPS.

It cost £65,000 in total to buy and fit out the van, with donations from local councillors and organisations to make it possible. Of special mention and a guest of honour at the launch was stalwart fundraiser Les Agar, who has his name on the van and has raised £55,000 in total in his fundraising for NDSART.

Team leader Dave Stoneman said: ‘Our previous van was 20 years old and it was starting to fall apart. It took us two years to raise the money.

“It allows us to continue with what we do, giving us a control base which is mobile. This is important because we could be sent anywhere. The pollice don’t have their own control vehicles so what will happen on a big search is they will come and use ours. We work very closely with the police.’

Chair of NDSART Catherine Davis is one of the team’s dog handler pairs, conducting rescues with her dog Jack.

She said: ‘We have the Land Rover as well but we have so much equipment we can’t fit it all in, so it is very important to have a vehicle that is big enough to store all that.”

The vehicle is fitted with GPS technology to allow the resue coordinator to accurately plot on a map on a computer screen exactly where the search teams are.

Dave added: “Fifty per cent of our rescues are off Dartmoor and involve what we call despondents, people who may have Alzheimer's, or have mental health issues. Having a control vehicle works to our advantage because if we turn up in a village in that, we are very visible. It means people will come and tell us information. It helps with what we do.”

NDSART member Mick Burke added:”Reliability is key because at 3 o’clock in the morning you don’t want a control vehicle that won’t start.” He said they had been busy that morning putting the finishing touches to the van.