Falling over on a Phoenix mountainside has become only the least of a 74-year-old hiker’s worries, after her subsequent rescue went dizzyingly – and spectacularly – wrong.
Footage from ABC15 Arizona’s television helicopter captured the remarkable moment the woman, who suffered head and facial injuries during her hiking mishap, was sent into a tailspin.
The woman was rescued on Tuesday morning (US time) at Piestewa Peak, the second highest point in Arizona’s Phoenix Mountain Reserve.
But as she was lifted into a helicopter, a second line meant to stabilise her stretcher failed.
That meant what was supposed to be a rudimentary operation quickly morphed into a horrifying ordeal, as the injured hiker began to spin under the backwash of the helicopter’s rotor blades.
The motion lasted for more than 40 seconds.
Aware of the turbulent scenes unfolding below, the chopper’s crew raised and lowered the woman’s stretcher slightly, trying to stem her rapidly accelerating rotation.
Eventually, the situation was brought under control, and the woman was winched to safety in the helicopter.
However, as is the case with any piece of downright absurd news vision, her rescue went viral on social media almost immediately.
Poor helicopter had to be life flighted pic.twitter.com/QU1qWMjrNq
— Angelベラ (@AngelCo_) June 5, 2019
How many times have you watched the video of the helicopter spinning the woman pic.twitter.com/GyVnb4MLbV
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) June 5, 2019
Chief pilot of Phoenix police department’s aviation unit Paul Apolinar said the potential for a hurricane-like hoist is “a known phenomenon in the hoist rescue industry”.
“Sometimes when we bring the helicopter up from the ground, [the basket] will start to spin,” Mr Apolinar said.
“We have a line attached to the basket that’s supposed to prevent that. Today, it didn’t.”
Phoenix Fire Department officials said the injured hiker was treated at a local trauma centre after suffering dizziness and nausea during the helicopter rescue.
“I kind of was able to get in her face a little bit, make sure her eyes were open and told her everything was going to be OK,” Phoenix fire captain Bobby Dubnow said.
“It’s something we don’t expect, but we anticipate and we train for it. Nothing happened today that we weren’t prepared to deal with.”
The 74-year-old is in a stable condition.