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Video: Crews pull off breathtaking rescue of Stillwater hiker at Split Rock

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The orange jump-suited rescuers are first seen leaving the ground, suspended beneath a helicopter. They land near the crumpled figure of a 61-year-old Stillwater woman, injured on rugged terrain during a hike near Lake Superior.

The two rescuers wrap her in a mummy-shaped carrier, then the three are lifted and carried to safety.

The bird's-eye view of the rescue mission was captured with a small camera attached to the helmet of a member of the Minnesota Aviation Rescue Team over Split Rock State Park Monday.

The Lake County Rescue Squad had been first to respond to a call for help at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on Lake Superior's north shore. Lori Mildon, the hiker, was unable to walk and stranded on a trail that was best reached by air. So the aviation rescue team, a partnership between the St. Paul Fire Department and the Minnesota State Patrol, was called in.

"The topography in the terrain was very challenging in that area to try and get someone, actually get them out," St. Paul Fire Capt. Alan Gabriele said. "And you'd risk further injuring the patient and potentially the rescuers."

Rescuers evacuated an injured hiker.
Rescuers used a helicopter to evacuate the injured hiker Monday at Split Rock State Park.
Courtesy Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Minnesota State Patrol pilot Dave Willar described the trail as slippery, primitive and narrow.

"As we're flying up the river looking for the patient, there is a small little foot path. It's not a paved path by any means," he said. "The river has cut a very deep ravine that it takes to get down to Lake Superior."

The Minnesota Aviation Rescue Team took off from St. Paul and arrived about an hour and 15 minutes after the 911 call. Pilot Dave Willar hovered above as the rescue team placed Mildon onto a board, wrapped her tightly in several blankets and then a red, inflatable cocoon and lifted her with the helicopter.

Eight minutes later, the team and its patient landed in a parking lot along Highway 61, where an ambulance took her to St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth with non-life threatening injuries.

The Minnesota Aviation Rescue Team, which has performed a few aerial rescues each year since it was formed in 2011, has four pilots, 18 firefighters, and two helicopters with lift capabilities. The team trains monthly or up to twice a month and is deployed 15 to 20 times a year. Not all calls require air-lifting a patient.

"It is a difficult thing to do," Willar said, "but we do it so often it's almost anticlimactic when we go up there and just do one lift."