Bernalillo County Search and Rescue uses new technique to save stranded hiker

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BERNALILLO COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Bernalillo County Search and Rescue teams now have more options when it comes to saving people who are stranded or lost.

Just on Wednesday, they used a new technique to rush a woman to safety.

Hanging from a helicopter hundreds of feet in the air, short hauls are used to transport lost, stranded or injured people without having the helicopter land.

Rescue Specialist John Turrietta trains for them once a month, but Wednesday he was called out for the real thing.

“It was a little bit more serious. I was just making sure she was okay,” Turrietta said.

It was his first real life short haul, and the longest time he has spent suspended in mid air carrying a person he had rescued.

“Once we were in flight, it was seven minutes and a couple hundred feet above the ground,” Turrietta explained.

A short haul is the newest option Bernalillo County Air Support Crews have to save people.

The unit is a specially trained team made up of sheriff’s deputies and paramedics with Bernalillo County Fire.

Rescuers opt for short hauls when the helicopter they use for lifting patients out is undergoing maintenance, or when there are fewer crew members available.

Rescuers say it’s risky but sometimes necessary. Like on Wednesday, when a hiker in her 70’s was lost in the East Mountains for more than 24 hours.

With only two crew members, the team was able to complete their mission.

“I’d rather short haul than hoist,” Turrietta said.

But they do that, too. The crew rescued a group of missing hikers in Sandoval County, near Mount Taylor, last week.

Sheriff Manuel Gonzales says the unit is always adding more to its repertoire.

“Looking at the maximum potential for the air assets and, obviously, for themselves as professionals,” Sheriff Gonzales said.

Officials say the woman the team rescued Wednesday is okay.

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