SALT LAKE CITY — In line with emergency response across the West, so far in 2021, Intermountain Life Flight has already performed more hoist rescues than in all of 2020.
“Last year (2020) was a pretty normal year, pretty normal numbers for us,” said David Weber, Intermountain Life Flight Paramedic. “It’s this year, it’s the post-pandemic summer that seems like we’re really busy.”
While other air ambulance transport services serve Utah, Intermountain Life Flight is in a league of it’s own. They’re the only civilian air ambulance rescue service in the United States with Federal Aviation Administration certification to conduct hoist operations with a paramedic attached to the helicopter.
“It’s a great tool for search and rescue it saved them a lot in a lot of areas they can’t even get to,” said Ernie Felix, an Intermountain Life Flight Pilot for two decades. “Air transportation, it’s like a flying ambulance.”
Aside from patient transport services, Life Flight responds to emergency scenes alongside ground personnel and local departments. Life Flight responds with a pilot, paramedic and flight nurse.
“We are just one piece of the puzzle, there are so many people on every one of these rescues, there’s the EMS personnel, the fire personnel, the search and rescue volunteers most of the time that we’re responding with just as an additional resource,” said Weber, who is a hoist rescuer paramedic.
With a 300-foot cable hoist, Life Flight can access some remote, tough to reach areas.
“We do a lot more ‘trauma’ in the summer,” said Yavonne Liljenquist an Intermountain Flight Nurse. “If you want to go into the backcountry absolutely go, but be prepared, know that when you get out there you’re not going to have all the things that you have, you know your cars not right there.”
Life Flight personnel recommend being extra prepared for trips into the backcountry and to know your limitations.
“Do a bit of research, take the appropriate supplies, have enough water and the right equipment to keep you from having to call us,” said Weber. “It’s just really gratifying to be able to help people with the skillsets that we have in that time of need and when they’re having their worst day, to bring them back to safety to bring them back to their family is ultimately a very gratifying component of this job.”