NYPD helicopter crew braves ferocious winds to rescue West Point cadets.
Rescue Stranded Cadets
In a true cliffhanger, NYPD helicopter crew braves ferocious winds to rescue West Point cadets.
A daring New York Police Department helicopter rescue in darkness and dangerous winds safely delivered two West Point cadets Sunday from an 18-inch-wide mountain ledge where they were stranded 500 feet above ground for nearly eight hours.
"It was the most dangerous thing I've ever done in the police department," said Officer Steve Browning, who has flown helicopter missions for the NYPD for the past 14 years and in the U.S. Army for 14 years before that.
Browning, of Shirley, credited the rest of his crew with heroics in plucking the 20-year-old men from a nearly vertical rock formation at West Point, located about 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point said in a statement that the freshman cadets had gone rappelling down the side of Storm King Mountain on their own until they became unable to proceed at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Summoned by the cadets with their cell phones, local authorities including firefighters responded to the mountain but were unable to reach the cadets, who had tied themselves to a tree branch jutting out between rocks, authorities said.
NYPD aviation unit Capt. James Coan said the police department's rescue helicopter team was assembled just after midnight, when winds that gusted as high as 60 mph in Manhattan on Saturday were beginning to die down. He said a helicopter piloted by Browning arrived at the scene shortly after 2 a.m., when police spotted the cadets by using infrared devices and night vision goggles.
Browning said the cadets, standing in freezing temperatures, had slowly waved a lighted cell phone, making it easier for the helicopter crew to spot them.
He said the helicopter was steadied against winds exceeding 30 mph as it hovered about 60 to 80 feet above the men, the chopper's blades just 20 feet from rocks and trees. The helicopter was kept within a 3-foot radius as the men were secured to a horse-collar style rescue harness dropped from it. Read full article
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