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Stranded hikers spotted by drone, rescued by SAR volunteers and helicopter

Posted at 9:25 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 23:29:20-04

WEBER COUNTY, Utah — Two hikers called for help on Tuesday afternoon after they became stranded in the Beus Canyon area of Weber County.

“We were able to make contact with them by cell phone and got the details and they had gone hiking and gotten off-trail,” said Lt. Mark Horton, who overseas Weber County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue. “They got into a situation where they realized they needed help.”

The area where the two female hikers were stuck featured steep cliffs with deep snow and ice. The two didn’t feel comfortable hiking back out.

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“They did the right thing and they called for help, they didn’t try to push it which would have put them in a worse situation,” said Lt. Horton.

After search and rescue volunteers hit the trail, Weber County SAR deployed a drone to help locate the hikers. Within 15 minutes of taking off, the drone located the two hikers along the mountainside.

“To be able to see that they were cuddled underneath a tree and they seemed to be at least from our perspective at least in good health and we were able to radio that into our ground teams,” said Kyle Nordfors, Drone Team Coordinator for Weber County SAR. “The camera on it has the zoom that is incredible, thermal and also a laser range finder.”

Read: Sharp increase in Utah search and rescue calls may be coronavirus-related

As family members gathered in the trailhead parking lot, the drone showed members of search and rescue reaching the hikers on foot.

“For them to sit here and watch the whole thing live, to be able to watch the teams move into that area where they are, they were actually able to watch search and rescue show up on scene,” said Lt. Horton.

The drone view was shown on a screen for the families to watch as their loved ones were rescued. Since both were experiencing mild hypothermia, a Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau helicopter was called in to assist with a hoist.

“In the world of search and rescue the drone is another tool, just like the rope is a tool, just like a good pair of boots is a tool, the real heroes are the guys out there pounding the dirt going up there to access the situation and pulling our patients off the mountain,” said Nordfors.

Weber County SAR has had their drone for about a year and has used it on numerous rescue missions and other county-related business, such as helping county health workers locate homeless members of the community who may need assistance.

The drone team hopes to implement more drone use within the department. “If we could get some more funding, we’d be able to get more of these assets, these tools that are truly lifesaving,” said Nordfors.