(BANNER ELK, N.C.) — Officials used a Black Hawk helicopter Monday afternoon to save a man who fell nearly 40 feet off a North Carolina mountain.
The unidentified climber, 23, was rappelling off Shortoff Mountain in Pisgah National Forest in Banner Elk, N.C., when he fell and bounced off one mountain ledge before landing on another.
The man’s friend and another climber called 911.
“I’m on the side of the mountains and I just watched a climber take about a 45 foot fall, had a pretty bad impact,” the climber told the 911 dispatcher in calls released by Burke County officials.
The injured climber’s precarious position forced emergency crews to call in a Black Hawk helicopter, from which rescuers rapelled down to reach him.
“The ledge was small,” Gaston County EMS Capt. Chris Hendricks said of the spot where he and two other members of the North Carolina Helo-Aquatic Rescue Team found the climber. “There was barely enough room for all three of us.”
The Black Hawk helicopter is best known for having served in combat areas that include Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hendricks’ colleague, David Bowman of the Charlotte Fire Department, spoke with the climber, who was still conscious after the fall.
“I had a short conversation with the patient and let him know we were here and going to take care of him,” Bowman said.
Hendricks, Bowman and a third rescuer pulled the climber back into the Black Hawk, from which he was transferred to a medical helicopter and flown to an Asheville hospital.
The climber is reported to have suffered critical injuries, including broken bones.
The third man who rescued the climber says, for him and his colleagues, the dramatic rescue was all in a day’s work.
“This is what we train for,” Capt. Maurice Taylor of the Charlotte Fire Department said. “We developed a plan in the back of the helicopter and then we executed that plan.”
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