MESA, Ariz. (KSAZ) - This was not your typical water rescue. A man was plucked from the Salt River in Mesa last week. He made it to dry land by grabbing onto a police helicopter skid and holding on as tight as he could.
The Salt River is running in places it usually doesn't and that has caused flooding in some areas. Last Thursday night, a homeless man camping in the bottom of the Salt River found himself in deep trouble. A very skillful pilot crew with the Mesa Police Department made a very challenging and dramatic rescue.
Meet Jeremy -- the focus of one of the most dramatic and unconventional water rescues the valley has seen.
"When he put the spotlight on the guy, even 500 feet away I could see him visibly shaking and shivering. He appeared to be extremely cold," said Officer Karl Ehrhardt.
The two MPD pilots went searching the Salt River near Dobson Road where someone reported hearing screams for help coming from the water. Flying 450 to 500 feet above the water, they spotted the homeless man in more than 10 feet of water. He was standing in a grocery cart, holding onto a raft that was holding his belongings.
"Where he was sitting down in some brush and tucked about 20 feet off shore, it was a tight fit, but we got down close and tight to him. We actually brushed the tips of rotor blades to the top of one tree trying to get to him."
It was a close call, but the pilots say they couldn't wait for a more traditional water rescue. Jeremy had already been in the water more than two hours.
"This guy was not going to make it.. we were pretty sure that if he'd stayed in there overnight or we hadn't found him, this would be a totally different story for him," said Officer Darren Rigsby.
Now this 15 second ride to safety is being viewed nationally. Police say Jeremy was very grateful when he made it to dry land. He was checked out by Mesa firefighters and is expected to recover.