A recently released video captures a dangerous recovery operation in Utah's Lone Peak Wilderness that nearly turned deadly for the rescuers tasked with the mission.
In September 2015, trooper helicopter pilot Kent Harrison of the Utah Department of Public Safety and a companion were sent to the area to help a Salt Lake County search and rescue team recover the body of a woman who had been hiking alone when she tragically fell 300 feet to her death.
"It was a very vertical area, very difficult to have people even in the area and we employed the helicopter as a means of reducing their risk," Harrison said today.
In the video, the helicopter can be seen hovering just feet from the face of a cliff as the rescue team prepares to load the hiker's body into the aircraft.
The team's members were using orange safety ropes. Harrison said that before the helicopter had arrived, one of the rescue team members had taken a rope used to lower the hiker's body to a rescue site and had tied it themselves as a safety harness.
"The rope was tied as they approached the cliff in order to enhance their safety," Harrison said.
But, as the video shows, when the rescuers move toward the helicopter to load the body into it, the rope gets caught on a main rotor blade. Harrison said the rope caused "catastrophic failure in one of the main rotor head components," causing the helicopter to immediately lose control.
The rescuers tumbled down the rocks as the tail of the helicopter flew over their heads.
Rescuer Ben Robertson told KSL that it sounded as if an explosion had gone off.
"The helicopter immediately became extremely violent in its vibration, up and down and left and right," Harrison said.
He said that the main rope did not break but was prevented from wrapping around the main rotor by a smaller, secondary rope that freed it.
"Within about two or three seconds, the helicopter would have crashed at 10,000 feet," he said.
Harrison was able to regain control of the helicopter, avoiding a crash landing, and the rescue team was able to complete their task. Harrison landed the badly damaged helicopter in a nearby field, saving all seven of the rescue crew.
"He saved everybody's life that day," Robertson said.
http://abcnews.go.com/US/helicopter-pil ... d=38886604