A video of firefighters airlifting a 74-year-old hiker who had fallen went viral yesterday after Twitter users latched on a clip of the stretcher wildly spinning while rescuers attempted to load her into the helicopter. Now, the firefighters of the Phoenix Fire Department behind the rescue are explaining to the press why the stretcher got out of control. The short version: it just happens.
“We were doing a hoist rescue — we do a lot of them,” Phoenix Fire Department lead pilot Paul Apolinar said at a news conference about the rescue from Arizona's Piestewa Peak. “Sometimes when we bring the helicopter up from the ground it will start to spin, so we have a line attached to the basket to help prevent that. Today it didn’t.”
PFD Helicopter commander Derek Geisel said they tried several techniques that had reduced spinning in the past, but they didn't help.
“This has happened in the past, but it’s been quite awhile,” Geisel said. “In the past we’ve kind of learned some of the techniques to get rid of it...We brought it down again, brought it back up, hoping some of the spin would lessen — which it didn’t, obviously.”
Apolinar went on to explain that baskets tend to spin as they get closer to the helicopter and interact with the wind coming off of the helicopter's rotors. And while the hiker's spinning looked extreme, authorities report that she suffered no ill effects from the strange airlift.
“Reports from the hospital are that she is stable and suffered no effects from the spinning,” said PFD Captain Bobby Dubnow.