Phoenix Fire Captain Bobby Dubnow says the 75-year-old woman "had no ill effects from the spin"
74-year-old woman rescued
Credit: FOX10 News

A helicopter rescue turned into a terrifying ride for an elderly woman airlifted from an Arizona hiking trail on Tuesday.

The woman, who officials said is 75 years old, was rescued after suffering injuries on a hike at the popular Piestewa Peak in Phoenix. But the rescue did not go exactly as planned, and her basket stretcher spun wildly out of control while being lifted up to the copter. Footage of the frightening retrieval was caught by local news station Fox 10.

Emergency responders said that they did what they could to alleviate the wild spinning, caused by the helicopter’s rotors.

“Once we got the forward flight, the spin got quite a bit less to where they were safely able to bring the patient up to the aircraft,” said the pilot in command of the rescue, Derek Geisel, in a press conference from Phoenix Fire Tuesday afternoon.

Phoenix Police lead air unit pilot Paul Apolinar added that out-of-control spinning has only occurred twice in 210 rescues over the past six years, and the last occurrence was three to four years ago.

“It’s very rare,” he told reporters. “I can tell you it’s something that occurs infrequently. It’s not something that occurs very often.” Apolinar added that it’s so rare, in fact, the department has to force the spinning to happen during training exercises.

Phoenix Fire Captain Bobby Dubnow said that while it looks dramatic, the woman was safe during her ascent to the helicopter, and was strapped down in multiple ways. “She has multiple points of packaging and connections all over her body,” he said. “So she suffered no ill effect from that spin other than being a little bit dizzy.”

The injured woman was taken to a trauma center nearby, Fox 10 reported.

“Reports from the hospital are that she is stable and she had no ill effects from the spin,” Dubnow said in the press conference, adding that responders were aware of the spin before treating her.

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Despite the spinning, the fire department stood by their decision to use the helicopter.

Given factors like the woman’s age, the terrain of the location and the weather, “the helicopter was the correct decision,” Dubnow said.

“Sometimes if we’re in a canyon, it’s a strong windy day, it will spin on us,” Dubnow said. “It’s not something that happens very often, but sometimes it just does. And when it does, we’re trained to take care of it.”