Aviation News

February 21, 2011

NYPD Helicopter Performs Daring Mountain Rescue of West Point Cadets

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By: BNO News
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Two West Point cadets were rescued off an 18-inch-wide ledge by a police chopper early Sunday morning on New York’s Storm King Mountain.

NYPD Bell 412 N412PD flies over the floating wreckage of US Airways Flight 1549

An NYPD Bell 412 (N412PD) flies over the floating wreckage of US Airways Flight 1549. (Photo by John Musolino)

The two unnamed West Point freshmen, or plebes, as they are known, decided to take an uncommon rappelling expedition on their own and outside the academy’s designated areas, a United States Military Academy spokeswoman told the New York Times.

The students took off on Saturday afternoon, but shortly after, they were trapped on a narrow ledge on Storm King Mountain, which stands 1,300 feet above the Hudson River. They were unable to continue their way down or up.

Using their cellphones to make emergency calls, they were also unable to give their exact location, but rescue teams successfully pinged their cellphones and grid location.

However, West Point and the Highland Falls and Cornwall Fire Departments rescue teams were unable to reach the ledge during their efforts at around 6:30 p.m. local time, and a State Police helicopter, which was able to locate the cadets, did not have the necessary equipment.

Finally, the New York Police Department deployed a Bell 412 helicopter after receiving a call for assistance shortly after midnight.

Nonetheless, helicopter pilot, Officer Steven Browning described the rescue effort as the most difficult flight in his 14 years with the Police Department, as he faced powerful winds from two directions while piloting the helicopter with its rotors just 20 feet from the cliff.

In addition, weather temperatures dropped to the 20s, but the crew successfully sent down a ‘horse collar,’ which was wrapped around the chest of the first rescued cadet.

The cadet was transported safely to the academy, and the rescue teams made the trip back to rescue the second cadet.

The Keller Army Medical Center said both were in good and stable condition.