Normal rescue tactics?


Original Post
Optimistic · · New Paltz · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 300

Trapped at work with nothing to do, trying to find something on TV (always a mistake): on MSNBC Caught on Camera was this segment where a woman in a summer running outfit who had climbed over the lip of "Eagle Rock in Los Angeles" (I don't have other details on what the location was). She was about 10 feet below the top, in a little alcove on a sloping ledge about 2 1/2 feet wide. It looked fairly windy in the video. The top appeared easily accessible on foot.

Again, this is not a climber, no harness, wearing running shoes. So they show up in a chopper, and lower a medic down to her. Swinging around in the wind like he was, and in the alcove like she was, he really had to scrabble hard and at close quarters to the victim to get onto the ledge. He was wearing a helmet cam so it was easy to see how close his hands were coming to her arms as he was trying to get established on the rock. Then he looped some kind of strap under her arms and up they went. All the while, her boyfriend stood on top of the cliff, with length of webbing dangling down to her position. Pretty odd scene!

So my question: is this a normal way to handle a rescue like this? Couldn't they have pretty easily knocked her off? Seems like rappelling in from above (seriously, only about 10') would've been the conservative move here. Is this maneuver less sketchy than it looks?

andrew thomas · · Orcas island · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 105

http://www.mountainproject.com/v/eagle-rock/106577904

BigB · · Red Rock, NV · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 340

Link?

Optimistic · · New Paltz · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 300
Bryan Manning wrote:Link?
I Googled around trying to find one on my phone, would definitely have made for a better post, sorry! The footage was pretty terrifying I thought...
Optimistic · · New Paltz · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 300
Andrew Pow wrote:http://www.mountainproject.com/v/eagle-rock/106577904
That could well be it. Chopper pilot was calling it 500 feet but 120 looked right to me.
Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,497

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1BVOa0cs42s

I have no SAR training.

Agreed. It does seem like rapping in from above to first secure her would have been ideal. Still, looks like maybe not a lot of daylight left to assemble folks on top?

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,497

By the way - we were on scene for a helicopter pick off in the Grand Tetons not long ago. The situation was not precarious like this. Even so, it is simply amazing what those teams can do with just radio and visual communication.

Optimistic · · New Paltz · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 300
Bill Lawry wrote:https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1BVOa0cs42s I have no SAR training. Agreed. It does seem like rapping in from above to first secure her would have been ideal. Still, looks like maybe not a lot of daylight left to assemble folks on top?
Wow, you found it, nice work. The raw footage is even scarier!

Edit: I'm going to include your link in my original post, thanks for finding it.
Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,497

I am also really curious about how she was secured. Seemed to go on quickly.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 230

Can't really see anything but assuming a waist harness. Remember the legs on a harness aren't really 100% necessary.

Hard to say from video but it didn't really look like anything you could rappel off of, rock looked really chossy.

Optimistic · · New Paltz · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 300
ViperScale wrote:Can't really see anything but assuming a waist harness. Remember the legs on a harness aren't really 100% necessary. Hard to say from video but it didn't really look like anything you could rappel off of, rock looked really chossy.
Fair point about a rap anchor, I was thinking there'd be a block back in the bushes there somewhere, and those fire guys always seem to have miles of beefy static line. Obviously I'm being about as armchair quarterback as one can possibly be, it just seems like it would've taken an infinitesimal slip on his part to knock her into void, particularly when he was spinning at what looks like about 100 rpm!
ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 230

Probably what the webbing she was holding on to was for to try to prevent that and once he got the harness on her she let go of it.

You can only see so much from that video.

Bigger question is how did she get down there in the first place without falling off the cliff?

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,497

Here is the story behind how she got there:

https://local.nixle.com/alert/4734644/

... includes some discussion from the rescue teams point of view.

Edit: The article refers to a safety harness around her waist. And during the hoist back up, it looks like she was holding on about as tight as possible.

MTCowan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 3

It's all subjective in a rescue situation, but personally I would've inserted a team by landing the helicopter above and set up a rappel. Typically our pilots wanted to set at least 1 skid on solid ground and unload a team rather than hang a rescuer off the hook. But that's just the protocols from the 1 agency I was trained for helicopter ops with.
Hoisting a victim into the helicopter is by far the most dangerous way, (other than a litter hoist) but given the time constraint of being 1 hr before dark, it may have been safer/quicker than try to insert a team on top.
Really all depends on what resources were available, and the time frame to arrive on scene. I could armchair quarterback all day long, but I don't have the resources to say whether or not a hoist extraction was the "right" call in this situation. Ultimately the mission was successful and the victim was safely extricated from danger.
With regards to the device she was hoisted on, it's called a hoisting sling. It is wrapped behind the back and connects at the front into the hook or a locking 'biner. it basically holds you up by the upper torso similar to a chest harness.
-MTC
NASAR SARTECH II
Helicopter rescue trained through NYSDEC

Andrew Rivera · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 30

http://www.mountainproject.com/v/mormon-rocks/106331336

It looked like the mormon rocks off the 15 freeway

MTCowan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 3

Watched the video, so I was able to update my original post to be more accurate, and hopefully I answered a few questions.

Optimistic · · New Paltz · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 300
MTCowan wrote:It's all subjective in a rescue situation, but personally I would've inserted a team by landing the helicopter above and set up a rappel.
Thanks for your comments MT. Trivia question (because I do understand, I wasn't there, who knows what I would've decided?) : people pointed out that solid anchors might have been hard to find in that terrain. If the helicopter had landed, would it have been heavy enough to use as an anchor for a rescue?
Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,497
Optimistic wrote:Trivia question (because I do understand, I wasn't there, who knows what I would've decided?) : people pointed out that solid anchors might have been hard to find in that terrain. If the helicopter had landed, would it have been heavy enough to use as an anchor for a rescue?
Rather, 10 or 20 people tied together sitting back in a depression would make a good anchor. Better pee first as they might be there a while. ;-)

Edit: Realistically, it'd take time to hike enough people with harnesses out to the area before dark.
MTCowan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 3

I've never used a helicopter on the ground as an anchor point, but we do use even relatively small firetrucks as anchors frequently so I could see that working. Also bear with me as my experience in helicopter rescue was limited to a season in the Adirondacks as a seasonal employee with NYSDEC Forest Ranger Division. I have a decent amount of training in it, but my experience doesn't cover years of helicopter rescue. I just have to wonder how quickly a ground based team could've arrived versus that aircraft. Realistically you're looking at 30-45 mins from time of dispatch for most birds to arrive on scene.
The process usually goes:
Ground based units are dispatched
First unit arrives on scene (usually law enforcement), and determines what resources are required
Request air support
10 Mins to 15 min to to pré flight inspection and ensure the aircraft is set up for the scenario
10-45 min flight to scene
1-5 min fly around to formulate a safe approach and evaluate any hazards to the aircraft
So you're looking at a decent amount of time before that resource actually arrives. Depending on road access you could get a lot of equipment up there in that time. Looked like the road was well under a quarter mile from the incident, so you don't even have to factor in hiking in ground resources.
But ultimately, the right call is the one that gets everyone home safely, which is what happened.

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145
This post violated Rule #1. It has been removed by Mountain Project.
Scott O · · California · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 65

First thought was "what a waste of a helicopter resource."

Second thought was, actually it looks late in the day at a location it would take quite a while to hike to, with a victim in a fairly precarious perch wearing inadequate attire for even a brief period after dark... lots of reasons to employ a helicopter in some capacity.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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