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Sheriff's Office

Posted on: August 6, 2019

Video: Rescue 3 Flight Crew Hoists Three Hikers to Safety

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Video: Rescue 3 Flight Crew Hoists Three Hikers to Safety after a Fourth Member of their Group Suffers a Fatal Fall 

A Spokane Regional Air Support Unit (SRASU) Flight Crew responded to Iron Cap Mountain in King County for the rescue of three hikers after a fourth member of their group suffered a fatal fall.  The area is extremely remote with steep, jagged cliffs and loose, unstable rock.  With few helicopters and crews equipped and trained to provide hoist rescues, Rescue 3 responded as part of the Northwest Regional Aviation group, using their hoist to lift the hikers to safety from the steep edge.  

On August 4, 2019, Spokane Regional Air Support Unit Rescue 3 Flight Crews received a request to assist in rescuing three stranded hikers (61, 56, 51 years of age) after their excursion into the Cascade Mountains ended in a fatal tragedy.  Aviation crews in the local area were unavailable to respond at the time of the deadly accident. 

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office received the request just before 2:00 p.m. to assist with the technical hoist rescue and assembled a flight crew to respond to the Iron Cap Mountain (elevation 6347’) area.  Once at the scene, Rescue 3 Crews worked with King County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, which was based at Bandera State Airport (I-90 and milepost 45).

Rescue 3 located the three hikers and by hoist lowered Helicopter Rescue Medic and Spokane Fire Department Captain, Bob Nixon, down to the stranded hikers. Helicopter Rescue Medic and Spokane Valley Fire Department Engineer, David Sanchez, also was lowered by hoist to transfer equipment.  Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Deputy and Flight Crew Chief Chris Bylow operated the hoist as Rescue 3 Pilots Rod Melzer and Chris Debs flew the Bell UH-1H Super Huey with precision.  

Due to waning daylight and the very steep, unstable location where the victim fell, Rescue 3 was unable to recover the victim’s body (61 years of age) from the mountainside.  King County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit, with the assistance of six King County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue members, recovered the victim’s remains this morning.    

Video Clips from Crew Chief Chris Bylow’s and Helicopter Rescue Medic Bob Nixon’s GoPro cameras are posted on the Sheriff’s Office YouTube Channel https://youtu.be/9AkcROLKWj8

* The first portion of the video is a flyover to survey the area. 

* Approximately 1 minute, Helicopter Rescue Medic Bob Nixon is lower by hoist.  You can see him use hand signals to communicate with Crew Chief Bylow

* Approximately 3:18: The view from Helicopter Rescue Medic Bob Nixon’s camera as he is lowered. 

* Approximately 5:37: Crew Chief Bylow camera, first hiker brought up to Rescue 3 by hoist.

* Approximately 7:45: Helicopter Rescue Medic Bob Nixon’s camera, hoist of first hiker.

* Approximately 9:41: Crew Chief Bylow camera, second hiker brought up.

* Approximately 11:10:  Crew Chief Bylow camera, third hiker and Helicopter Rescue Medic Bob Nixon are hoisted up together into Rescue 3.

* Approximately 11:58: Helicopter Rescue Medic Bob Nixon’s camera as he and the third hiker are lifted to the safety of Rescue 3. 

The Spokane Regional Air Support Unit is comprised Volunteer Pilots, Tactical Flight Officers (TFO’s) from local law enforcement agencies, and Helicopter Rescue Medics (HRM’s), certified EMT’s, from Spokane Valley Fire Department and Spokane City Fire Department. 

TFO’s: Deputies and Officers from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department, Spokane Valley Police Department, Coeur d’Alene Police Department, and the Spokane Police Department.

Air 1 and Air 2: Two OH-58’s equipped with Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR), which allows air crews to detect heat on the ground. FLIR can be used to locate both missing people and hiding fugitives. Air-1 and Air-2 are also equipped a 30 million candle power searchlight, GPS moving map system, and the flight crews are equipped with night vision goggles. In addition, Air-1 is equipped with a downlink which transmits live video from the helicopter to the Mobile Command Vehicle. The microwave downlink allows police and fire staff to see real-time video from the helicopter, and make timely decisions based on what they see. Air-1 and Air-2 are capable of carrying up to 4 people.

Rescue 3: Bell UH-1H Super Huey equipped with a long line and hoist system for short-haul rescue missions. The long line and hoist system allow our Tactical Flight Medics and Tactical Flight Officers to be lowered from Rescue 3 in order to retrieve a citizen that is either injured or lost in remote areas. The primary mission for Rescue 3 is search and rescue.  Rescue 3 is capable of carrying up to 14 people.

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