A new UH-1-A “Huey” helicopter, based in Saranac Lake, was put into action Tuesday, April 23, to help DEC Forest Rangers rescue a group of teens unprepared for conditions near the summit of Mount Colden.
Four 17-year-olds from the Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs area, one with a leg injury, were stranded near the summit of Mount Colden. They were wearing sneakers, without snowshoes, and stuck in deep soft snow, according to reports by State Police and Forest Rangers, who were dispatched to the rescue.
The new helicopter delivered Forest Rangers to the summit of Little Colden and extracted the injured teen at approximately 6:45 pm to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. The three remaining teens were treated for varying stages of hypothermia at the scene, and were escorted by Rangers to Adirondack Loj where they were reunited with family.
There has been an increase in search and rescue and recovery operations being conducted in the Adirondacks, the result of an increase in visitors in recent years. DEC Forest Rangers are now conducting about twice as many search and rescue operations as they were a decade ago, while Forest Ranger ranks remain stagnant. The phenomenon is not limited to hikers, as Upstate New York led the nation in snowmobile deaths this past winter as many more riders took advantage of this year’s longer sledding season.
According to State Police, in 2018 four Huey helicopters flew more than 250 flights. These included law enforcement, and missions for DEC to rescue stranded hikers and other injured citizens, re-stock lakes with fish, take water samples of various Adirondack lakes to monitor quality and pollution, and conduct wildlife surveys that track various tagged species. The helicopters also conducted a number of missions to fight forest fires.
The Huey used to rescued the injured teen was acquired the State Police through the Department of Defense 1033 Excess Property program in July 2018, but Hueys were developed by the military in the 1950s as a general purpose and medical evacuation helicopter. They have been used extensively in warfare and humanitarian roles, including in the aftermath of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene and to conduct hoist rescues of distressed citizens during Irene
Photo above of rescue operation by DEC; photo of the new Bell UH-1-A Huey helicopter provided by the State Police.