Case Study: Risky Rescue

On October 27th, 2018 in Yosemite National Park, 39 year old Colorado climber Vincent Worth was rock climbing his way up the steep face of Mount Watkins. When he slipped and fell about 50 feet down the face of the rock wall, his safety rope caught him but he was unable to move. At the same time, a California Highway Patrol helicopter from Fresno was responding to a call which ended up being cancelled. Luckily they were in the area when Vincent called for help. The CHP helicopter flew to Mount Watkins to assist the climber. When they arrived on scene, Vincent was stranded 1,400 feet above the valley floor, free hanging with nowhere to go and minor injuries. The helicopter was equipped with a hoisting system and had a flight paramedic on board. The crew assessed that Vincent’s climbing equipment would be sufficient to attach him to the cable. CHP pilot officer Scott Rodda maneuvered their helicopter into position above the climber and they lowered the cable to assist him. Vincent was brought on board the helicopter thus completing the rescue.

Officer Rodda, his crew, his helicopter and Vincent Worth are very lucky. Officer Rodda had to skillfully position his helicopter above the climber on the steep rock face so that the cable could be lowered. The rotor blades were uncomfortably close to the face of the mountain. One wrong input to the controls or one gust of wind in the wrong direction could have spelled disaster for everyone involved. If the rotors struck the rock face, it is almost certain that the helicopter crew would have perished and Vincent could be killed or left stuck on the rock wall. Luckily, everything went well that day but at a tremendous risk.

What if this helicopter was equipped with the Vita Inclinata LSS? This rescue could have been conducted in a much safer manner. If this helicopter had the LSS it could be deployed with the helicopter at a safer distance from the face of the mountain. Using the LSS’s joystick control, the LSS could be guided toward the climber by the crew while the helicopter maintains a safer distance from the mountain. If a gust of wind pushed the helicopter toward the mountain, that extra distance would mean more time to react and compensate and could mean the difference between life and death.

Fortunately, this mission was a success even without the LSS. But how many missions fail or result in injury or death due to the operating conditions? How many rescue missions do the California Highway Patrol have to abandon because it wasn’t safe enough to conduct a hoist rescue? In this case, the risk to rescue the climber was necessary but what if that risk could be reduced or eliminated? The LSS could provide this risk reduction and prevent tragedy. As Vita Inclinata looks to the future, we hope to ensure that every hoist rescue is a success just like this one, except without risking more lives.
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