The rescue of an injured hiker on the Stevens Trail near Colfax highlights a major function of the California Highway Patrol’s Air Operations.
Debbie Steenkalk broke her ankle and had to be airlifted.
“We had to get her to a point where we could get her out of that remote location before it got too dark, before it got too cold, not only for her but also for the rescuers,” said flight officer and paramedic Matt Calcutt who was on the rescue crew.
While the Valley Division Air Operations participated in 476 felony arrests last year, it helped in 2810 searches and made 116 rescues. Not many people realize that the CHP assists numerous agencies who don’t have the budgets for aircraft.
Steenkalk certainly didn’t.
“I was totally surprised… I was a little concerned when the ground crew said they were going to hoist you up, I’m like are they really good about this, and she said they do it all the time,” said a thankful Steenkalk.
Flying in foothill and mountain terrain is a challenge, but crews get extensive training. Some say rescuing people can be more rewarding than catching criminals.
“When you save somebody’s life or you get them out for the help they need, that’s gratification in itself,” said flight officer and paramedic David White.
As for Steenkalk, she hopes for a quick recovery so she can thank her rescuers in person.