Two challenging hiker rescues by helicopter set Utah records

Aug 20, 2022, 10:49 PM

This past week, the Utah Department of Public Safety set two records for challenging rescues using helicopters, according to pilot Chelsea Tugaw. Both involved hikers who got hurt.

The first was the highest-elevation hoist for the state law enforcement agency – close to 13,000 feet near Gilbert Peak, the state’s third-highest peak.

“It was a female who was hiking up there and had fallen and sustained a pretty bad leg injury,” Tugaw explained.

Then, another record-setting rescue happened Friday afternoon when a man hiking near Lone Peak fell. The air ambulance could not retrieve him, so DPS jumped into action.

“He’d fallen into a kind of a tight chute area with little granite walls on the sides,” Tugaw said, “and they weren’t able to get close enough to hoist him out of that location.”

She said that was the longest hoist ever for the state law enforcement agency because a 50-foot extension was needed.

“We had to leave him 50 feet below the aircraft because it’s just basically a rope extension,” Tugaw said, “and then we flew him down to the command post, where we lowered him down into the parking lot.”

Tugaw served in the Air Force before going to flight school. She’s flown close to 5,000 flight hours during her career. Her favorite part of the job is “the really tight-knit team.”

“I love working with these guys,” she said. “They’re great, and I just love the diversity in the calls. It’s always something new every time we go out.”

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Two challenging hiker rescues by helicopter set Utah records