Vietnam War-era helicopter rescues hiker lost in the Everglades

Posted at 8:50 AM, Mar 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 08:53:16-04

A 33-year-old lost hiker is lucky to be alive after helicopter crews hoisted him from the Everglades in Southwest Florida this week.

The Collier County Sheriff's Office said deputies and dispatchers worked together over the course of 16 hours to help rescue the man Tuesday morning.

As night fell Monday evening, deputies said the hiker was unable to find his way back to a trail he was following, prompting him to call for help.

Dispatchers said they were able to map his location using his cellphone.

With the coordinates, a helicopter with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office located the man with infrared sensors.

However, the area was covered with thick foliage, making a landing impossible.

The agency’s rescue helicopter, a Vietnam-era Huey, also responded to the area, but the sheriff's office said darkness and dense vegetation made it impossible to lower a deputy and hoist the man to safety.

Deputies on the ground then entered the swamp in an attempt to reach the hiker, but encountered venomous water moccasins. Because of the dangers of the rescue, they decided to regroup at daylight.

Dispatchers told the hiker to stay put and shut off his cellphone to conserve battery power.

Around 8 a.m. Tuesday, deputies flew the Huey helicopter back to the swamp.

Dispatchers told the hiker to find dry ground in an area where the canopy was less dense.

Once the Huey spotted the hiker, deputies sent a crew member down to hoist him to safety.  The sheriff's office said the man was in good condition.

Rescue Helicopter Used In Vietnam War

The Collier County Sheriff's Office said this was the first hoist rescue for the Huey since it went into operation in November 2017.

Built in 1968, the helicopter's first tour of duty was in the Vietnam War in 1971 where it was shot and damaged a one month later.

It returned to the U.S. for repairs and later used by the FBI, U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations office.

The helicopter was then sold to the sheriff's office.