Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

Cal Fire helicopter crew receives medal of valor


Last updated 9/13/2018 at 7:29pm

Cal Fire Riverside County Fire Department

Pictured from left to right are, Fire Captain Donald Kowalski, Fire Captain David Rodriguez, Battalion Chief Justin McGough, Pilot George Karcher and Firefighter Nathan Carrion.

Four of Cal Fire Riverside Unit's best were given California State Firefighters Association Medal of Valor awards Thursday, Sept. 6, for their role in rescuing a stranded rock climber on the face of the 8,800-foot Lily Rock in the Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness exactly one year ago.

Hemet-Ryan Air Attack Base Helicopter 901 pilot George Karcher, crew chief Capt. David Rodriguez and rescuers, fire Capt. Donald Kowalski and firefighter Nathan Carrion were present to receive the CSFA Medal of Valor at the at the Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage last week.

"I am very proud to be in the presence of our men and women who provide service to the citizens of Riverside County, partner cities and the State of California," Fire Chief Shawn C. Newman said in a press release. "To have our helitack crew receive the medal of valor for a rescue showcases the exemplary work our employees do day in and day out."

Karcher said he recalls the rescue crew locating the victim, an adult male hanging upside down in his rope rigging in a crevice on the sheer rock face. He said the victim was reported to be badly injured and unable to move that it was determined by the rescue crew that a hoist rescue was necessary.

Karcher steadied the helicopter against erratic winds and turbulence while Rodriguez lowered rescuer, Carrion into position next to the victim, who was inverted on the rock, Karcher said.

Once Carrion assessed the victim's injuries, he was able to secure the Quick Strap rescue device around the injured patient, cut away his tangled ropes and sent up a ready signal to Rodriguez, he said

Kowalski and Rodriguez assisted Carrion and the victim into the helicopter who was now unconscious and unresponsive. The rescue crew initiated basic life support care during the five-minute flight to a waiting air ambulance at the Keenwild helibase station in Idyllwild.

The patient was transported to an area trauma center for treatment of his serious injuries.

The rock climber survived the ordeal.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]


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