View Full Version : helicopter winch rescue

09-25-2007, 06:23 PM
In my WIP, I have a body in an inaccessible spot in the Swiss Alps. I know that helicopters usually are used in rescue operations, but when a helicopter can't get to the specific spot for some reason, how would the body be moved -- stretcher or in another type of container? Are dogs still used to help with recovery, or is that only for lost hikers? I'm finding lots of statistics and cases of accidents, but no specifics as to how the body would be moved. Thank you in advance for any insights into this.

09-25-2007, 06:41 PM
I'd suggest a call/email to these guys...




09-25-2007, 06:59 PM
Thanks so much -- that's perfect:)!

09-25-2007, 08:33 PM
Dogs aren't just for lost hikers; they are used to locate a body, but it sounds like your Alps bod is located, just needs to be moved.
Helos aren't always used. Expensive and hi-altitude helo is quite specialized, not something a garden variety helo and pilot can do. Once the person is found dead, thus it is only a recovery mission, a few decent climbers can usually get the body down in a hard shell Stokes. Some bodies, however, are never brought down. If there is more risk than is reasonable to the recovery team, them the mountain gets to keep its prey.

09-25-2007, 08:56 PM
Thanks -- that's great information. If the body cannot be safely rescued, would it be illegal for the family to come to retrieve it? Would that ever happen?

09-26-2007, 02:58 AM
The family would be doing an illegal recovery if they toddled up a peak for which a permit is required (bunches of permits in mountaineering now) and they had not secured a permit.

Tsu Dho Nimh
09-26-2007, 09:02 PM
To get the body out they would have to hover, send one or more persons down in the basket ... and pray the down draft doesn't knock anything loose onto the corpse removal crew. If it can't be done safely, they will not make the attempt.

Keep in mind that helicopters have altitude limits. Can they get above the corpse?
http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/TrainingAndAdventure/MountainExercisePreparesNavyHelicopterCrewsForFutu reOperations.htm might help. 10,000 feet is really high for a chopper, especially if you expect it to lift off.

I am a ski patroller, and we occasionally have to ship someone out by chopper. The White Mountain AZ helicopter evac uses an Italian "alpine-capable" make because it can lift off with a patient on board at the base of the ski area. That's just over 9,000 feet, and we're at their limit of safe operation.

They come in along the ravine and road leading in because they can't fly it over the ridges around the area. By the time they reach base they are doing 60mph towards us up the narrow canyon, barely 30 feet off the ground, the turbocharger is howling like a banshee to keep the bird in the air, and the blades are throwing a ground blast full of snow, ice, and gravel in all directions. It's impressive. It's dangerous to everyone on the ground.

Because they are landing they can stop the blades to load the patient, but our instructions if we get caught near the landing pad is "eat snow until the wind stops" because it can blow you off your feet. For a basket rescue, the blades can't stop, so your team would be working in a 40-60mph down-draft. Even in Phoenix, the choppers are used to drop the evac crews onto the mountains, they lower the victim and (if needed) the chopper meets them at the bottom because it's safer for the rescuers.

Anyone hurt further up the ski area mountain has to be brought down by toboggan to the pickup zone ... that led to an interesting incident last winter where an injured skier was calling 9-1-1 on his own and demanding med-evac get up to 11,000 feet to get him out. They bluntly told him they wouldn't risk losing a helicopter and a crew, and to shut up and take the toboggan.

We have wind limits to observe too ... the chopper can't maneuver as well at 9,000 feet as they do lower down, so if it's too windy they can't fly. In that case the patient goes by ambulance to the airport and a fixed-wing ambulance takes over.

Retrieval by a ground crew is more likely, but only if the body is in a place that the crew can safely enter. There are bodies on many mountains that will not be recovered because it's too dangerous. And if someone is fool enough to attempt to retrieve them, there will be more bodies in those spots.

09-26-2007, 10:51 PM
Thank you, Tsu Dho Nimh, for your thoughtful and detailed reply. That really helps me out.