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The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

Colorado Nat'l Guard assists in Rescue on Challenger Pt.

July 8, 2009

Capt Elena O’Bryan
(720) 250-1050

Tech. Sgt. Cheresa D. Theiral
(303) 549-425

SAGUACHE COUNTY, Colo. – The Colorado National Guard was called to assist in
the rescue of an injured hiker at 10:50 p.m. yesterday in the Sangre De
Cristo mountain range in south central Colorado.

Two hikers had spotted a solo male hiker who had fallen about 1500 feet down
a slope and came to rest at approximately 12,600 feet on a 75-degree slope on
the side of Challenger Point.

The hikers then notified authorities.

Seven Colorado Army National Guard Citizen Soldiers in a CH-47 Chinook
helicopter, assigned to the Army Aviation Support Facility at Buckley Air
Force Base in Aurora, Colo., flew to the scene to conduct the rescue in
complete darkness using night vision goggles.

The mission was considered high risk due to the necessity for a hoist on the
steep and rugged slope at high elevation. “We had approximately 15 to 20 feet
of clearance between our rotors and the side of the mountain while hovering,”
said Sgt. 1st Class Greg Riss.

“The night vision goggles gave us the ability to see as if it were day,” said
Pilot Chief Warrant Officer-4 Curtis Hathcock.

Sgt. Josh Moyer, medic, was hoisted down to assist the injured hiker.

“It took an hour and a half to prepare the patient on the steep slope … if
the other two hikers hadn’t been there to help Sgt. Moyer, the patient could
have slid down another 1000 feet,” Hathcock said.

The hiker and medic were hoisted into the aircraft. The hiker was then safely
transported to Cottonwood, Colo., and transferred to a civilian
Flight-for-Life bound for Pueblo, Colo., at about 3:30 a.m.

The CH-47 was chosen for this mission due to its ability to hover and
maintain power during hoist operations at high altitudes above 12,000 feet.

“Colorado Army National Guard helicopters can support life or limb Search and
Rescue operations in conjunction with Civilian Emergency Rescue Service crews
when the terrain or altitude makes landing a civilian EMS aircraft
questionable.  Our aircraft are equipped with internal and external rescue
hoists and have superior altitude capability which improves safety.  Once an
external hoist rescue is completed, our aircraft expedite the patient to the
nearest ground or air ambulance. Our aircraft aren’t fully equipped with
trauma equipment and medical personnel,” said State Army Aviation Officer
Col. Joel Best.

The other crew members that assisted with the rescue were Pilot Chief Warrant
Officer-4 David Gates, Flight Engineer Master Sgt. Greg Clancy, Flight
Engineer Sgt. Ramon Arrazcata, and Crew Chief Spc. Nick Parrott.

For nearly 150 years, the Colorado National Guard has served our nation in
wartime and is the first military responder during state emergencies. CONG
Citizen-Soldiers and Citizen-Airmen are always ready, always there to support
civil authorities.

Colorado National Guard rescue efforts are coordinated through the Air Force
Rescue Coordination Center. The center ties in to the Federal Aviation
Administration’s alerting system and the U.S. Mission Control Center.

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