WOLFE COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky State Police, along with the Wolfe County Search and Rescue Team and Red STAR Wilderness EMS, used a helicopter to perform a first-of-its-kind rescue in the Red River Gorge Tuesday.
Around 10:30 Monday night, a 911 call came in about a pair of canoers who were overdue in the Gorge. Conditions were tough with below-freezing temperatures and heavy precipitation.
"Wolfe County Search and Rescue had been engaged in a very grueling overnight search for those two individuals, and they were assisted by Kentucky State Police, who had some specialized sensing equipment on their helicopters that can pick up heat signatures," said Red STAR Wilderness EMS coordinator David Fifer.
By Tuesday morning, search teams were still trying to find the couple. Around 10:30 AM, they had some good news, but also a bit of bad news.
"They were on a riverbank, beneath a probably 250 or possibly 300-foot cliff," Fifer said. "Once they found them, they determined that one of those individuals maybe had some lower leg injuries, maybe was a little hypothermic, and the terrain that they located them in is some of the ruggedest terrains out there in the Gorge."
However, the teams have a new tool at their disposal this year and this was the perfect situation for the first mission.
"They requested a hoist rescue from Kentucky State Police. The State Police just installed a hoist on their aircraft a few months ago, so this is a brand new program for the Kentucky State Police," Fifer said. "We can take some specially-trained paramedics, like we have on Red STAR, and basically drop them down into the woods, for example, to start treating a patient."
KSP assisted Red STAR Wilderness EMS & Wolfe County Search & Rescue Team with the rescue of two stranded kayakers out of Red River Gorge. The kayakers went missing last night. Both have been rescued (tonight) & are safe, receiving medical attention. Great teamwork by all involved pic.twitter.com/Dfeq3xHLPR
— KY State Police (@kystatepolice) April 20, 2022
From about 200 feet above the ground, the helicopter dropped a rescuer in to assess the canoers, then hoisted one of them back up into the air and flew them to a waiting ambulance. As the spring outdoors season starts to get underway out in the Red River Gorge, this is an asset everyone out here is thankful to have.
"The Commonwealth is very lucky to have two agencies that have this capability for the entire Commonwealth, who work together to be able to enhance safety," Fifer said.