NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A New Mexico hiker fell more than 30 feet to the edge of a cliff right off a popular trail on Sunday, according to an incident reporter. New Mexico State Police then made its first helicopter high-angle hoist mission, and it was all caught on camera.
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The hiker broke a leg and had other severe injuries. The crew believes the mission likely saved her life. “We’ve never done a mission like this. We’ve done them in the mountains, we’ve done them in pretty bad areas but this was the first high angle,” Technical Flight Officer Steve Montano said.
The NMSP Aircraft Section was called Sunday to help a badly injured hiker near Cabezon Peak in Sandoval County. “Right on the edge of a cliff on a really steep slope,” Pilot Josh Robertson said.
Luckily, Robertson spotted a man wearing a white shirt who was with the injured woman. She was lying on her side on an embankment on the east side of the mountain.
“She fell off the trail at Cabezon Peak and she rolled about 30 to 40 feet and she stayed on the ledge,” Montano said.
A hoist operator helped the two rescue specialists drop from the helicopter to a flat landing near the hiker. “When I was able to get down and assist her, she was in a lot of pain,” Rescue Specialist Elliot Guinn said. “She was very cold. She had been on that hillside for quite a while.”
Video from the crew and GoPro footage shows them hoisting her into the aircraft. She was in critical condition. “We had to be really precise on where we placed our medics and where we placed the hook and how we got her out,” Montano said.
They moved her to a medical helicopter to be taken to a trauma center. “We had a very narrow window of opportunity in order to get this victim out and it was within a matter of minutes,” Guinn said.
Then, it became too dark to lift Guinn off the mountain, and the crew would have to come back for him early the next morning. He and other crew members have since visited the hiker in the trauma ICU.
“She’s awake, she’s talking, she went through surgery. She’s a very avid hiker, great spirits. She’s a fighter,” Guinn said.
According to the incident report, the man in the white shirt who was with the injured woman was able to hike out of the area and crews never saw him again after the hoist.
The crew says when they got their police helicopter two years ago, it was one of the most well-equipped in the country. They use it for everything from fugitive searches to search and rescue operations.