Contra Costa County first responders reunite after dramatic airborne rescue

CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- We are hearing for the first time from the first responders in Contra Costa County who took part in a dramatic airborne rescue. The men got together on Thursday to show how they saved a man suffering from heat stroke on a very remote hiking trail.

They gathered for a group photo, together for the first time since they all played a role in rescuing a hiker who collapsed in the Briones Regional Park near Lafayette.

"The temperature was 105 and that hike was pretty severe," said Johanna Jeffries.

Jeffries was one of several dozen people making the hike that day. She saw the man keel over.

"We ran to get to him and we got to him in under a minute, but he was having a seizure and at that point we called 911," she said.

That call scrambled the crew of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department helicopter called Starr 3.

"We were overhead within probably four minutes," said Deputy Mike Ireland.

Video shows Ireland preparing a 100 foot line with one end attached to the chopper and the other attached to him. While paramedics got the victim ready, Ireland flew in dangling from the chopper.

So the flight rescue crew put the victim in a harness and lifted him to safety.

Instead of fire crews taking an hour to hike the victim out to safety, they flew him out in 11 minutes start to finish. He's now recovered, but he wasn't able to make Thursday's ceremony.

"I feel good about it," said pilot John Meyer. "It's why we did all the training. We weren't a rescue helicopter as far as moving victims around before, but we are now."

He means that until a year ago the sheriff's helicopters were strictly law enforcement eyes in the sky.

But after months of training, they can add saving lives to their resume.
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