Suspended by a rope underneath a helicopter, Niagara Parks Police Sgt. Lance Dobbin soared 200 feet above the Niagara River during a dramatic rescue of an injured man Wednesday morning.
Niagara Emergency Medical Services received a 911 call around 9:30 a.m., reporting a man had fallen while hiking in the Niagara Gorge near the Niagara Glen.
Due to the terrain where the man was located, members of the Niagara Parks Police Parks Police high-angle river team used a rescue technique known as helicopter short hauling.
The technique involves suspending a rescuer on a 40-metre rope attached to the bottom of a chopper from Niagara Helicopters and then lowering the person to the site of the injured party.
The short-haul system is used when a rescue operation would be too dangerous or too time consuming to attempt by other means.
Dobbin was lowered into the gorge and the injured man, believed to be about 25, was placed on a stretcher and then both were lifted up to the Niagara Pkwy.
The man was then transferred to a waiting Ornge air ambulance and flown to a Hamilton hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.
Niagara Parks Police Chief Carl Scott said the man was hiking in the gorge with a relative when the incident occurred.
“He was hiking along the marked trails but then climbed over a rock and lost his footing,” he said. “He fell approximately 30 feet.”
Niagara Falls Fire Department platoon chief Wayne Willett said it took some time to locate the man.
“We weren’t 100% sure where he was originally,” he explained.
“The parks police received a call from the person’s cousin and we were able to get a general location of where they were.”
Firefighters worked alongside paramedics to stabilize the man and place him on a backboard to prepare him to be lifted out by the helicopter.
The parks police said the incident should act as a reminder to people to take precautions when walking in the gorge.
“Always carry a cell phone and bring water,” he said. “Wear proper footwear and clothing and stay on the marked trails. Don’t walk alone.”
Sections of the Niagara Pkwy. were blocked to traffic during the rescue operation so the Ornge ambulance could land near the Niagara Glen.
Short hauling was first developed in Switzerland in the 1960s. The local version of the program started as a joint venture between the Niagara Parks Police and Niagara Helicopters in 2003.
While the technique is practiced regularly, it wasn’t put into practice until 2009 after a man suffered serious leg injuries after falling at the Niagara Glen.