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Flagstaff, AZ - A twenty five year-old male of Cottonwood, Arizona and a twenty year-old female of Sedona, Arizona were rescued from a potentially life threatening experience as they were precariously perched on a rocky outcropping less than two feet square in total surface. The mission to rescue these stranded hikers involved four public safety agencies, more than twenty rescuers and medical personnel, and took approximately fourteen hours to complete.
On Wednesday 12/5/12 at about 4:10 pm, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office received an urgent cell phone call for help from the male victim. According to the caller, he and a female friend were stranded while hiking on the Sterling Trail near Vulture Arch in Oak Creek Canyon. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Deputy assigned to the Oak Creek Canyon area was the initial responder. After hiking to their location, the Deputy was able to communicate with the victims and determined they were in stable condition. The Deputy reported the two hikers were stranded on a rocky outcropping that was barely large enough to support both of them. The outcropping was approximately 30’ below the top of the canyon and approximately 50’ above the canyon floor.
Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Technical Team, Sedona Fire District and the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue Helicopter were dispatched to assist. The seven man Technical Rescue Team encountered steep angles and soft unstable sandstone surfaces that made anchoring safety lines very difficult. Eventually a rescuer attached to a safety line secured to a pine tree at the top of the canyon was able to reach the two victims.
As soon as the rescuer reached the victims, he outfitted them with “Hasty Harnesses” (composed of web material) and secured the harnesses to the safety line. The rescuer placed helmets on both victims and conducted a quick medical assessment. While being belayed, one of the rescuers attempted to traverse the victims to a safe point. During this time, one of the victims collapsed due to fatigue. The three individuals then lost their footing and they swung into the rock face striking it with significant force. Due to the safety equipment that was in place, neither victims nor rescuer received serious injuries. The three were lowered to the ground where the two victims were medically assessed and quickly treated.
With the assistance of Sedona Fire District personnel, the Technical Rescue Team transported the female victim in a wheeled litter a distance of more than three miles, taking over three hours, to a waiting ambulance. The ambulance transported her to the Sedona Medical Clinic. She was later transported by medical helicopter to the Flagstaff Medical Center where she was treated for non-life threatening and non-incapacitating injuries and was released early this morning. The male hiker was able walk out on his own.
Media Contact: Gerry Blair, Community Programs Planner & PIO, Coconino County Sheriff's Office (928) 226-5089