Cops & Robbers (6) “About to fall off a Mountain “
Posted on June 19, 2011
About to fall off a mountain
It was the end of a hot sticky, day, and I was on the short drive home.
I’d put the Sheriff’s helicopter back in the hangar, locked up, and departed for the day.
Or so I thought.
I was idly listening to Dispatch, when a strange call to the Patrol Commander drew my attention.
“Lincoln One, Dispatch! “
The familiar, calm voice of the Lootenant came up.
“Dispatch, Lincoln One? “
“Sir, we just had a nine-one-one from two young ladies up somewhere on Bullhead Mountain. They say their two boy friends are about to fall off the mountain! “
The Loot replied what I’m sure we were all thinking.
“That doesn’t make sense. They either have fallen, or they haven’t fallen. How can they be ‘about to fall’? “
I knew the Dispatcher. A calm, very sensible lady. Something wasn’t right.
She continued, with the whole Sheriff’s Office listening in.
“Sir, the line just cut out. They sound very upset. All I could get out of her is that they are somewhere up on Bullhead Mountain…. “
I knew the mountain fairly well. It overlooked Kingman, and the sunsets often framed the long ridge in spectacular colors. It was sizable, and also pretty steep. About to fall? What did that mean?
“Lincoln One, Dispatch! “
“Dispatch, Lincoln Nine? “
“Sir, they just called back again. The connection wasn’t too good, but it seems the two boy friends started to climb a very steep rock face. They are a couple of hundred feet up, and now they are stuck. But it seems they don’t have a good grip, and they are shouting that they are about to fall… “
I braked hard, and pulled over to the side of the road. I guessed what was coming.
“Air One, Lincoln One! “
“Yes, Sir! “
“Get over there as quick as you can, and see if you can find out what’s going on! “
My tires squealed, and I was racing back to the hangar.
A few minutes later, I was airborne, and streaking over Kingman towards Bullhead Mountain.
I was wondering how I was going to find them. Bullhead Mountain is large, and we had no information as to which side they were on. This could be a needle in a haystack…
The unique advantage of a helicopter is that people see and hear you coming. And you, as the pilot, can see for miles. When you are looking for something unusual, it’s the unusual that catches your eye. In this case, two girls, standing up on a hill, waving a towel, jumping up and down, waving, and generally indicating very much that they wanted to be seen. I headed over, and pulled up in a high hover. There was probably a large question mark floating above the helicopter.
“Okay ladies, I see you, now WHAT is going on…? ”
They were obviously upset, and pointing vigorously further up the mountain. I guessed they had very sensibly come down to a prominent point, once they knew the helicopter was coming. The expressions on their faces were not good. There was serious alarm there. I moved off, slowly winding up the mountain.
I couldn’t see anybody. I was looking, but I couldn’t see a soul.
Then, all of a sudden, as I came over the crest off a hill, down below me, I saw one, then the other.
The white faces that were turned up to me, were terror stricken. Stark terror. There was no mistaking the seriousness of the situation. I could see immediately what had happened. They were very near the top of their climb, but there were no more handholds. It looked as if they were holding on by their fingers and toes, unable to go up or down. Exhaustion was likely also a factor. They were climbing unsecured, no ropes, and the steep fall down to the rocks below was one hundred per cent non-survivable.
“Lincoln One, Air One! “
“Air One, go ahead? “
“Sir, they are indeed about to fall off the mountain. They’re stuck on a steep rock face, near the top. It’s a major fall almost vertically down. Looks like they are holding on by their fingers and toes. And the expressions on their faces are close to complete panic… “
Within seconds, the Search and Rescue Team was being called out. I gave the two climbers a “thumbs up “, and then jerked my thumb over my shoulder. Followed by another thumbs up. I hope they understood what I meant:
“Don’t panic, boys, the cavalry is on the way… “
After that, I was called upon to quickly lead the rescuers to the correct location. Once again, the helicopter was able to perform that function very efficiently. As a “Force Muliplier “, my little girl performed…
It still took time, and the successful rescue was a very close run thing. One of the rescuers, secured in a harness, suspended from a rope, had barely reached one of the lads, when tragedy almost struck. Overcome with exhaustion, the chap actually lost his tenuous grip, and fell. The rescuer, exercising lightning fast reactions, and tremendous physical strength, actually reached out and caught the falling near-victim by his jacket. A tense few seconds, resolved only by a well trained, dedicated, and very skilled Mountain Rescue Team.
The two climbers, shaken and exhausted, were reunited with their girl friends, and I for my part, was delighted to have played a part in the rescue.
I hoped at the time that this was just another example that would show the versatility of the helicopter as a Law Enforcement asset. In the event, I was to discover there were still those in high places who regarded the helicopter as an expensive toy. Pity. It was to be an ongoing battle. The doubters versus the believers.
That same struggle is being waged all over the Law Enforcement Community.
I do know however of two very lucky lads, who, if their opinion was to be asked, would probably say some very positive things, about what it’s like to see a Sheriff’s helicopter coming along, lickety-spit, when you’re hanging from a near vertical rock face by your finger nails…
About to fall off a mountain…
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on August 31, 2012, 10:19 am