Helicopter pilot performs one-skid ‘hot landing’ to airlift sick hiker from side of mountain

ST. GEORGE — A hiker became sick while exploring the area near Snow Canyon and had to be rescued from the side of a mountain by air rescue this weekend.

Rescue of a sick hiker on Red Mountain, Sept. 28, 2019, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Facebook page, St. George News

At around 3 p.m. Saturday, dispatch was notified by a group of hikers on Red Mountain that their companion had fallen ill, complaining of general sickness and nausea and could no longer continue hiking. Washington County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team members, including Washington County Emergency Services Director Jason Whipple, were sent in hiking to investigate.

Whipple told St. George News the team assessed the man, believed to be in his 20s, and provided some minor medical treatment. At that point, bearing the rough terrain in mind, they decided it wouldn’t be feasible to hike him back down.

Originally, they requested a helicopter to come in from Utah Department of Public Safety, he said, but with the helicopter being two to three hours away, the Arizona Department of Public Safety flew in with their rescue helicopter to lend a hand.

Whipple said when the helicopter arrived, the wind was steadily blowing anywhere from 15-20 mph, with gusts a little bit higher than that. The pilot had to perform a one-skid, ‘hot landing.’

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“It was tough for him, but he was able to do it, so kudos to him,” he said. “We were able to load to the patient on the helicopter, and they were able to transport him down the mountain.”

Whipple expressed his appreciation to the Arizona DPS for coming up to help.

“Those guys did a great job getting in there with the wind. That pilot put that bird right there and held it there.”

Whipple said the hiker had mentioned that this hike was a little bit tougher than he was used to, and given the heat and his energy level, he wasn’t prepared.

“Make sure when you go on a hike, you take plenty of water and snacks. Know your hike,” Whipple said, adding it was pretty warm on the south-facing slope of the mountain that afternoon. “Make sure that you’re prepared for the hike both physically and mentally.”

He said the group did a lot of things right leading up to the incident.

“They did have water up there. They did have cell phones that work. Make sure you have a cell phone with plenty of battery and a way to contact people.”

He also said it was good they were in a group, and he praised them for telling people at home where they were headed, which is always important.

The patient was transported by Santa Clara/Ivins Fire Department to Dixie Regional Medical Center for further evaluation. Whipple said as the chopper flew away, the patient appeared to be in good condition, but his current status was unknown.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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