A routine helicopter rescue of an injured hiker turned into a dramatic, spinning ride for the 75-year-old woman in Phoenix.
Firefighters said that she was left feeling nauseated and dizzy after being whipped around while hoisted to safety but wasn't otherwise affected by the rescue.
"Reports from the hospital are that she had no ill effects from the spin," Phoenix fire Capt. Bobby Dubnow told reporters.
Local TV station Fox 10 captured footage of the rescue, which took place Tuesday morning at Piestewa Peak, a popular hiking spot in Phoenix. Emergency responders were called after the woman, who was not identified, fell and hit her head.
The Phoenix Police Department assisted with a helicopter to hoist the woman from the trail in a Bauman bag and basket, standard equipment for aerial rescues. In the past six years, the department has performed 210 mountain rescues, plus hundreds more in training, chief pilot Paul Apolinar told reporters.
"Sometimes if we’re in a canyon, it’s a strong, windy day, it will spin on us," he said, adding that the department had seen it only twice before. "It’s not something that happens very often, but sometimes it just does. And when it does, we’re trained to take care of it."
A line attached to the hoist aims to keep the basket from windmilling as it's drawn into the helicopter's rotor wash. That line ultimately broke, pilot Derek Geisel told reporters, leaving the basket spinning.
"So we brought it down again, brought it back up, hoping some of the spin would lessen, which it didn't, obviously," he said.
As the helicopter flew forward, the spin slowed down enough for firefighters to fully hoist up the woman.
"We were at least able to make some eye contact, and I could tell she was doing OK," Dubnow said.
The Phoenix Fire Department follows a series of emergency procedures in situations like this, he added. Given the woman's age, the terrain, and the day's temperatures, Dubnow said the helicopter was the fastest and best way to get her medical care.
"The helicopter was the correct decision," he added.