DPS rescues stranded hiker near Sedona in first nighttime technical rescue operation

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- Arizona's Department of Public Safety can now carry out daring nighttime technical rescue missions, thanks to a new tool.

DPS crews added a hoist to one of their helicopters, and their first nighttime hoist operation, which was caught on camera, was a success.

A 52-year-old climber from Sedona who was rescued was free climbing Thunder Mountain when he became stranded on a ledge. He was stuck on the south side of the mountain, where the cliff faces are flat. The climber was stuck on a five-foot by eight-foot ledge more than 100 feet high.

"When you look through those goggles, your field of view narrows to about 40 degrees," said DPS Trooper Paramedic Edgar Bissonnette. He had control of the hoist that lowered DPS Trooper Paramedic Sharon Cups 86 feet down to the narrow ledge where the stranded climber was waiting.

"I was 100% nervous, because this was the first time," said Bissonnette. "The first time doing this."

Pilot Jake Arnold positioned the helicopter close to the side of the mountain.

"I was close the to cliff face," said Arnold. "I was within 10 feet of a cliff face, so it was straight down a cliff."

The trooper lands safely, secures the climber into a harness, then hooks him up to the hoist. She gives a hand signal, and the hoist starts lifting the two straight up.

"Once you try to pull them in through there, you need to go through fast because if you go through slow, they'll start spinning and start oscillating," said Bissonnette.

In less than a minute, they had completed the 86-foot ascent, and were transferred into the helicopter.

"If we hadn't have done this, it would probably be a ground-based rescue, and it would've been an all-night rescue," said Arnold.

DPS has since completed two more successful night missions. One of the rescues involved a hunter with a broken foot, and the other involved climber who had broken her leg in three places.