A NEW rallying call is being sounded to get 100,000 signatures on an e-petition to save the Portland Coastguard helicopter.

The fight to save the aircraft is heating up as people have been flocking to show their support.

Tens of thousands of people have signed a paper petition but just 12,452 have signed the online one.

The service is facing the axe in 2017 under government plans.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax is calling on everyone who wants the helicopter to stay in the area to sign both petitions so a debate can be triggered in the House of Commons.

Normally a debate will be triggered if 100,000 people sign up to it.

Mr Drax said: “We do need everyone and I mean everyone to get behind the e-petition in addition to the excellent paper petition.”

He added: “I’d urge anyone that has already signed the e-petition to tell their friends and family to do likewise.”

He said that if both the written and e-petition could be handed over with 100,000 signatures each it would show a ‘huge weight of opinion’.

He said: “It would be a tremendous achievement.”

Mr Drax is due to give evidence to the Transport Select Committee on Monday, November 5, about what it would mean if the helicopter was cut.

The committee invited written evidence into how the changes to the coastguard service were being implemented, they also wanted to hear about the possible impact on the service’s delivery.

A 12-page article was submitted outlining why the helicopter should be saved.

Mr Drax said he had been asked to give evidence because of the document submitted by his team.

He said he would be highlighting key points including helicopter response times if the service was moved away.

He said: “Portland helicopter is vital to retaining the integrity of the cover across the South West coastline.”

To sign up to the epetition visit http://epetitions. direct.gov.uk/petitions/36619

Vital Service

JEFF Peaple, 68, describes himself as a ‘very firm supporter’ of the Portland Coastguard helicopter.

He experienced first-hand just how vital the service is to the community when his stepson Liam Hughes, 15, was thrown against a cliff by a large wave on Portland last year and rendered unconscious by the blow.

Mr Peaple said he had signed the petition and urged others to do the same.

Praising the coastguards’ quick response, Mr Peaple said: “They wouldn’t have got there in time had they come from Southampton.

“They took four or five minutes and I reckon from Southampton they would have taken over 20 minutes.

“Things could have been much worse.

“I used to be a diver and some of my diver friends got saved by the coastguards too.

“It happens all the time.”

He added: “It’s not only for seafaring people though – I mean, bad things could happen to anyone. You could get stuck down a hole and break your leg. You’d really need them then.

“We want them to stay – very much so.”