ST. GEORGE- It was the first day for the Utah Department of Public Safety’s new Southern Utah Helicopter Rescue Team, and it only took a few hours to prove themselves.
They came to help on Friday in the rescue of a woman injured by jumping or falling from a waterfall in a remote and rugged area above Toquerville. A woman shattered her left knee and right ankle after a hard landing in the rocks below Toquerville Falls, and it took a joint effort by Washington County Search and Rescue with the Hurricane Valley Fire District to reach the injured part.
But to get her out, it took an extra team that until Friday didn’t exist in southern Utah.
Until now, the Utah Department of Public Safety’s aeronautical office has been assisting with local rescues by having to fly its helicopter an hour and a half from Salt Lake City. But on Friday, a second team and a helicopter were put into service at the St. George airport.
When it became too difficult and painful for the victim to lower them to the ground, Sgt. Darrell Cashin, who oversees the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team, knew who to call.
“Knowing that the DPS helicopter was there and it was their first day, I thought it would be a good opportunity. They were after five hours and we said, “We need you,” Cashin said.
Toquerville Falls is considered a hidden gem of a hike with water from LaVerkin Creek cascading over stepped cliffs,
The area is only accessible by a rough, unpaved road and a short hike. This is a cell phone signal free location located 11 miles from the Toquerville Boulevard-Spring Drive exit and civilization.
Because of this, a person accompanying the injured woman had to walk at least a mile before receiving a signal to call for help, Cashin said.
It’s unclear whether the woman lost her footing on the falls and fell or deliberately jumped, Cashin said. But the result was painful.
Rescuers quickly learned that the initial attempt to chase the injured woman from the scene was not going to work.
“We tried to put her in a vehicle and the pain was just too excruciating,” Cashin said, requiring a short airlift. “The injuries were not life-threatening. It was more about getting her to an ambulance with less discomfort for her.
After taking off from its new base at St. George Airport, the helicopter found a landing area near the falls and the woman was brought on board. She was then airlifted within minutes to a church parking lot in Toquerville where an ambulance took her to St. George Regional Hospital.
Cashin said the Aero Bureau’s new Southern Utah team passed its first test with flying colors.
“We called them a lot last month, but (they) had to leave Salt Lake,” Cashin said. “Having them so close with that quick response is really going to improve our ability.”
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