Sedona AZ (August 13, 2012) – On Saturday, August 11, 2012, the Sedona Fire District (SFD) responded to a report of what initially sounded like a routine emergency medical call somewhere on the south face of Thunder Mountain. First arriving crews soon realized this was not going to be a standard rescue. When the patient fell, he landed in a brush-filled ravine high on the slope. The difficulty of locating the patient was compounded because the injured hiker called from an international cell phone which prevented triangulating his position. Crews split up and made multiple ascents trying to make voice contact. Meanwhile, an Incident Command was set up to coordinate the effort and multiple cell phone calls were made to the patient who stated he fell over 20 feet and was severely hurt. “I could tell by the pain in his voice, he had significant injuries and was not doing well; as the incident progressed, I knew his condition was getting worse” said Battalion Chief Jayson Coil who was the incident commander on the scene.
The initial call was received at 2:19 pm and at about 5:13 pm, a firefighter/paramedic who was searching the mountainside, made visual contact with the patient, but could not reach him. “I could see him about 30 yards below my position, but the terrain was too technical to make direct access to him. I had to climb back up the mountain and over, traverse over and scramble down to him via an alternate route. It took me about 25 minutes to get down to him,” said Brian Ford, the first to arrive and begin treatment. “Once I made contact with the patient, I began advanced life support triage and treatment and was then able to direct the helicopter into the scene” said Ford.
At approximately 6:11 pm, SFD Firefighter Brent Johnson, a firefighter paramedic specially trained in helicopter rescue operations was in the Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter as they hovered at the face of the mountain deciding how they would best be able to reach the patient. A rescue plan was established that Johnson would rappel from the hovering helicopter down to Ford. Steve Corpus, another SFD paramedic, was also able to make it to the patient to provide the medical treatment the critically injured patient needed. “It was very difficult to get the helicopter in so close to the mountain. The DPS pilot from the Flagstaff station, Chuck Rush, and the spotter, Chip Main, got so close to the cliff face that the helicopter’s rotor blades were literally 10 feet from the ravine walls. This was certainly one of the more complicated helicopter rescues I have ever done” said Johnson.
By 6:39 pm, the patient was stabilized and packaged to be transported in a litter that is attached to a rope and hauled below the helicopter. “It was amazing to see the helicopter flying through the sky, with a patient and a firefighter dangling 100 feet below” Fire Chief Kris Kazian stated. “I am constantly in awe and finding a deep admiration for the amazing things all of the members do at SFD. They truly saved someone’s life today and what they did was beyond heroic. My wife and kids were on hand to watch the rescue through binoculars and could not believe what they were watching. I feel blessed to have such a great team serving our community.”
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Sedona Fire District is responsible for many rescues throughout the year through an amazing working relationship with the people at DPS and other agencies with which SFD works. Fire Chief Kazian encourages people to be very careful when climbing and hiking to assure your safety, “It does not take much to find yourself in a situation that will require SFD services and sometimes other agencies as well”.
Pictures provided by Battalion Chief Jayson Coil/Sedona Fire District