The OPP's emergency helicopter that was based in Sudbury has headed south to Orillia and may not be coming back.
OPP Staff Sgt. Peter Leon said Thursday the chopper was moved south for the duration of the Pan Am Games in Toronto, which runs July 10-26.
"The helicopter is, in fact, here in Orillia,” Leon said. “They have brought it down in case of any potential issues surrounding the Pan Am Games. That's where we stand right now.
"The intention is that if needs to be utilized in respect to Pan Am-related purposes, it could be used there."
The fate of Sudbury's base was thrown into doubt in April when the force announced it planned to close the Sudbury base and centralize both of the force's emergency helicopters at it's Orillia base. The move is expected to save about $245,000 a year and allow extended operating time for both aircraft.
However, critics have pointed out that Orillia is located in the snowbelt, and several times in recent years the OPP have had to call on the Sudbury base for rescues in southern Ontario because weather has closed Orillia.
The base originally opened in 1991 after a review concluded the most efficient use of the OPP's two helicopters was to station one at the new OPP headquarters in Orillia, and one in Sudbury.
"Sudbury could provide a decent response to southern Ontario, in case of a backup need, and provide an excellent response to the more populous areas of northeastern Ontario," Norm Kerr, who was the OPP's chief search and rescue pilot in 1991, told Northernlife.ca in an April interview. "So it's rather a shocking move to me."
Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault has said he will try and fight the closure of the base.
On Thursday, Leon said the helicopter may not return to Sudbury, even at the conclusion of the Games.
"That hasn't been decided," Leon said.