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DPS Helicopter Team Practices Dark Condition Rescues

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – No matter where you live in Utah, chances are the Department of Public Safety helicopter has buzzed nearby, heading out to another rescue. The team is busier than ever.

Things are supposed to be a little quieter at night, but lately it seems like when the sun goes down, the DPS helicopter is often called to go up.

“We are busy. Yeah,” says pilot Luke Bowman with a laugh.

Bowman says they’ve used their hoist more frequently to lift people to safety. That’s why the team spent some time Thursday evening training, in order to simulate dark conditions while using the hoist.

“We average about 43 to 45 hoists a year. Last year we had 51,” said Bowman.

It’s not just hoists keeping them busy. 

Last year, they went on a record 342 missions and rescued 140 people across the state who just got into a bad situation.

Many of those rescues were hikers stuck in the backcountry.

“Sometimes, people do have the right training and everything like that, and accidents just happen,” says Bowman. “The more people are out recreating, the more it’s going to happen.”

With more people living in and visiting Utah, calls have increased 62 percent in the last five years.

It’s to the point where pilots say they could almost use another helicopter, especially for Southern Utah.

“With our tourism going through the roof, that’s where they all flock to, is down there to Moab and Kane County and Washington County,” says Bret Hutchings, another pilot. 

Even though they’re busy, each pilot says they love what they do because they know they’re making a difference and saving lives.

“I do love this. It’s a great job. It has a lot of job satisfaction,” says Bowman. “It’s rewarding to know we can help a lot of people.”

Sheriff’s Offices in all 29 counties can call the DPS helicopter for help, and the team responds without charging the county.

The state believes the helicopter is good for the public.

However, more often lately, sometimes they’re on a mission and get called for another mission, meaning the team can’t respond right away.

It’s another sign Utah is growing fast.

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