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10th Mountain Division helicopter used to rescue kayaker in distress in NY

U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division conduct an air assault at Belvedere Landing Strip on Fort Drum, NY. (Sgt. Michael Wilson/ U.S. Army)
May 28, 2022

10th Mountain Division soldiers from Fort Drum and five Army helicopters were deployed to rescue a kayaker who was in medical distress Wednesday night in St. Lawrence County.

St. Lawrence County Emergency Services says it received a 911 call around 8:11 p.m. from a man in his 40s who said he had been kayaking all day on the Raquette River, was exhausted and couldn’t move his legs. While talking to the dispatcher, he started a small fire for warmth.

Fire chiefs from Colton and Cranberry Lake, state forest rangers and county coordinators then opened a command post for the rescue operation on Route 56, near Route 3 in Colton.

Emergency Services Director Matthew R. Denner said responders communicated with the kayaker by cell phone, and they decided to extract him immediately “due to fear of the victim’s health deteriorating.”

They called in the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade from the 10th Mountain Division, which responded with three Black Hawk and two Apache helicopters, and first responders notified Canton-Potsdam Hospital that the man would be brought in by air. Mr. Denner said the Apaches used state-of-the art equipment to locate the kayaker in distress.

The helicopter crew was communicating with the man via text message, and they asked him to put out his fire so the blades wouldn’t spread it. A crew member was lowered down 175 feet and hoisted the man back up. The command post was notified of a successful rescue shortly after midnight. Fort Drum medics decided to take him to Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown for treatment of dehydration, hypothermia and shock.

“I would like to personally thank our two 911 dispatch shifts that were involved. They did an amazing job and a great line of communication with all involved were established,” Mr. Denner said in a news release. “Both Colton and Cranberry Lake Fire and Rescue units, their training, professionalism, and dedication never goes unnoticed. NYS Forest Rangers with their support to our local first responders. Fort Drum their continued support to the neighboring communities, this successful rescue would not have happened last night and this morning without them.”

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