The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has an elite air rescue team that responds to roughly 300 calls per year, making them the busiest unit in the country. And they recently got a rare, unique challenge thanks to an urgent request from the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.
"We received what we call a mutual aid request," said Deputy Steve Doucette, a crew chief with the air rescue unit.
It came from nearby Riverside County where a hiker trapped on a 1,000-foot cliff in Palm Springs had to be rescued.
"[The hiker] was stuck in a very small, probably about a three foot area," Doucette said.
Narrow canyons and a steep, almost vertical cliff face would mean a difficult approach for the helicopter known as Rescue Five.
"If you could picture, [it was] almost like an L shape. So there's a cliff face, there's a cliff in front of us and he's tucked in this crack of a rock," Doucette said.
Undaunted, Rescue Five geared up and prepared to face the challenge.
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"We had to get as close to the rocks in order to hoise within a reasonable distance to the aircraft," said Deputy Keith Edey, who pilots the squad's helicopter.
Doucette said wind from the helicopter's rotor made things difficult for the rescuer going down to grab the hiker.
The team was able to use the grounding cable, a line that discharges powerful static electricity generated by the helicopter, to pull the rescuer to the victim.
Doucette said it takes "a lot of crew management between the pilot, the crew chief and the men working the aircraft," to get the team going.
The rescue mission concluded shortly after the crew got out the victim from the narrow canyon with only small bumps and bruises.