US Air Force Rescue Airmen Respond to Arizona Helicopter Crash

Capt. Cathleen Snow – 943rd Rescue Group

2/1/2011 – DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) — Air Force reservists from the 943rd Rescue Group responded to an Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter crash in a rugged valley northwest of Tucson Jan. 31.

Around noon, 943rd RQG Airmen were conducting two rescue helicopter training missions in the local area when they heard radio chatter indicating there had been an accident.

“We are an Air Force rescue helicopter with a hoist. Do you need our help?” the aircraft commander asked.

The 943rd RQG is an Air Force combat-search-and-rescue unit which trains to rescue downed or injured service members from combat situations.

The distressed helicopter crew responded yes and, the Airmen immediately returned to Davis-Monthan AFB and picked up pararescuemen to assist with the rescue.

Due to the rough terrain in the Avra valley, local rescuers had difficulty hiking to the accident. The PJs are highly-skilled personnel recovery specialists trained to perform rescues in all types of environments, to include mountain, cold-weather, water, etc.

There were four people on board, two were able to escape, and two were trapped in the helicopter.

“We were very concerned that our rotor wash would cause the wreckage to tumble down the cliff,” said Capt. Brough McDonald, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter pilot, 943rd RQG.

The helicopter below was teetering so the aircrew put the helo’s main gear in contact with the ground while three pararescuemen jumped out and secured the wreckage with ropes.

The PJs are also trained trauma specialist. In addition to getting to the victims in this hard-to-reach spot, they provided immediate medical aid.

Two of the survivors were able to walk and could board the aircraft with some assistance, while the other two had to be hoisted with lifters. The survivors were transported to local medical facilities.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known.