Helicopter rescue

During last Tuesday’s April 9 flooding in Stites, Idaho Army National Guard soldiers and dive teams from the Boise Fire Department worked together to hoist two individuals from their home to safety. The photo was taken by Spc. Doug Camden of Kamiah, 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team.

A Tuesday afternoon helicopter rescue in Stites saved two people trapped by floodwaters April 9, and that wasn’t the only time Idaho Army National Guard helicopters helped locals out of tricky situations last week. A Wednesday morning operation rescued a Kooskia man who had encountered difficulty while hunting for shed antlers in the Salmon River drainage.

In Stites, two helicopters – a UH-60 Black Hawk and an LUH-72 Lakota were called in from the Boise-area and hoisted two people to safety. The helos – crewed by the 1-183rd Assault Helicopter Battalion – brought flight medics and a Boise Fire Department Dive Team to a house south of Stites that had been isolated by flooding.

Joann Henry and Greg Henry were in a house completely surrounded by rushing water when Ms. Henry’s daughter, Joyce Crawford, and neighbor, Russell Vessey, tried to help. They tried to drive in on a tractor Tuesday morning.

“Russell got his tractor out and a trailer and went to go,” Crawford told the Free Press Friday, April 12. “I got on the trailer with a bunch of blankets and chairs so they could sit on it. We got in the field and Russell said, ‘Joyce, get in the cab with me.’ And about that time we looked back and the blankets and stuff that were on the trailer floated away. If I would have been on the trailer, I probably would have floated away with that stuff. We got close to the house and started to get to the back door, we got stuck. Couldn’t get undone.”

After another vehicle got stuck, and as the water kept rising, someone contacted the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, which called in the National Guard.

“My brother went out first,” Crawford said. “Then it was my mom’s turn, and she was really scared about doing it. I said, ‘Mom, you’ve got to go, there’s nothing else we can do about it.’”

Joann Henry, 81, has lived in the house since the early 1960s and witnessed the prior flood of record in 1964 as well as many other floods.

“It was pretty rough,” Joann said of the helicopter ride. “But we got off of my property onto the other side, and from there we got onto the medical helicopter and up to Grangeville.”

She got out of the hospital that day and has been staying at Crawford’s since.

“I don’t remember that much,” she said of the 1964 flood.

Inside the house, she said, stayed pretty much dry.

“Her house being right there, water going around both sides of it, other people’s getting full of mud and water and it ruined their stuff, and here’s her house sitting right in the river, water up over the riverbank, how can that be?” Crawford marveled. “You thank God you’re out of there and that your home is still there. In my opinion, she probably could have stayed there and been fine. But you don’t know if it’s going to go floating down the river. You go in afterwards and nothing got in there – no water, no mud, no nothing – it’s amazing.”

The next day, April 10, a Black Hawk crew hoisted a Kooskia man to safety after he was injured by when a rock rolled over him. The Free Press asked the Kooskia man for his side of the story Friday; he asked that personal details not be reported, and said he had walked back to his camp, where he spent the night after a fall that resulted in multiple injuries. “It wasn’t that big a deal, I don’t think,” he said.

An April 10 press release out of the Guard’s public affairs office described both incidents and stated the battalion and the Boise Fire Department Dive Team were training together when the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office call for assistance came in. Crews were able to hastily plan, prepare and launch for Stites within an hour.

According to the release, Guard units respond to 6-10 search and rescue incidents each year, as the medevac helicopters are both equipped with hoists not typically found in Idaho’s civilian rescue helicopters. The hoists allow for the safe recovery of personnel who are in water or on steep, impassable terrain.

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