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Guadalupe Mountains National Park rescue 'like something out of a movie'

Rescue of stranded hiker at El Capitan ‘like something out of a movie’

Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway is praising efforts by first responders involved in the daring rescue of a stranded hiker in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, saying a recent article about the incident “sounds like something out of a movie.”

The incident unfolded at 6 p.m. April 29 when authorities received a call from a distressed hiker who was stranded “on a sheer cliff face” at the 1,000-foot tall El Capitan, according to the article in GearJunkie and a report from the National Park Service.  The stranded hiker added that a companion had fallen off an edge and appeared to be unresponsive.

“The individual reported he was stranded on a sheer cliff face, standing on an area the size of a sheet of paper, with one handhold,” GearJunkie reported. “He was getting tired, he told rescuers, and didn’t know how much longer he could hold on.”

“He was getting tired, he told rescuers, and didn’t know how much longer he could hold on.”

What followed was a 24-hour-long rescue effort involving multiple agencies. The rescue reportedly involved sending a drone with a thermal camera to locate the hiker on the cliff face in the dark of night. With winds of up to 50 mph complicating the rescue, a team of three local first responders — Battalion Chief Scott Maxwell and Engineer Brandon Lee with the Carlsbad Fire Department, and Nick Castille from Eddy County Fire and Rescue — were dropped via helicopter about 1,000 feet from the stranded hiker, according to Mayor Janway.

“Maxwell and Lee rappelled in and, after about an hour of climbing down, Lee was able to reach the victim at around 5 a.m.,” Janway stated, adding that the trio of rescuers “overcame numerous setbacks, but over the course of three hours, managed to haul themselves, and the trapped hiker, back to the top of the mountain.”

Another rescue team recovered the body of the fallen hiker, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

John Majerus, assistant chief of the Carlsbad Fire Department, commanded the search and rescue team that played a critical role in the rescue.Janway noted that Carlsbad Fire’s Jesse Ramirez and Jeffrey Bisho were also part of the rescue teams.

The mayor additionally gave props to other agencies involved in the rescue including the “Texas Department of Public Safety, Aircrews from C Company 2-227th MEDEVAC out of Fort Bliss, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Eddy County Fire and Rescue, the Dell City Fire Department, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the Culberson County Sheriff’s Office and the Culberson County Ambulance Service.”

“Thank you to all of the men and women for their incredible courage in participating in this successful rescue attempt,” Janway said.

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