Helicopters help rescue man after fall down St. Croix River bluff

Local first responders and a special statewide team work together to bring victim to safety.




2 minute read

Photos courtesy Chisago County Sheriff’s Office

A team of first responders from several agencies rescued a 74-year-old man who fell down a cliff along the river in Franconia Township, Minnesota yesterday, a short ways downstream of Osceola Landing. The victim was reported by a 911 call as “bleeding and unconscious,” but after a complex and technical effort to get him to a hospital, it is believed he will survive the ordeal.

The Chisago County sheriff’s office received the 911 call at about 2 p.m. Deputies were joined at the scene by members of the Shafer Franconia Fire & Rescue, where they found the man at the foot of a cliff more than 50 feet high. The responders quickly determined they couldn’t get him to safety alone and requested local and state assistance.

“A mutual aide request was sent to the Taylors Falls Fire Department and Saint Croix Falls Fire Department, who have specialized equipment and training in technical rescues specifically in difficult terrain evacuation,” reported Capt. Derek Anklan of the Chisago County Sheriff’s department.

Deputies also called in air support. They requested a helicopter from LifeLink to transport the man to a hospital, and a helicopter and firefighters from the Minnesota Air Rescue Team, which is comprised of Minnesota State Patrol pilots and firefighters from the St. Paul Fire Department. The state team, the only such entity in the region, specializes in getting people out of tough spots.

The Taylors Falls, St. Croix Falls, and Shafer Franconia Fire Departments then rigged ropes and equipment to get to the victim, while paramedics from Lakes Region EMS and Shafer Franconia cared for him.

When the MART and LifeLink helicopters arrived, the MART helicopter hovered overhead while lowering a firefighter to help load the victim into a basket. They then carried him to a nearby site on level ground, where the LifeLink chopper was waiting. Transferring him to LifeLink, he was taken to a trauma center.

“Thanks to the seamless efforts of the named agencies the victim is expected to survive,” Anklan wrote.

The Minnesota Air Rescue Team has existed in its current form since 2011, performing on average 60 rescues per year. The program is expected to expand in the coming years, as the legislature provided $18 million in this year’s transportation bill to grow the program’s staff and capabilities, KARE 11 reported last month. The team will hire four new pilots, add an airplane to its fleet, and a new helicopter.

The helicopters currently used by the Air Rescue Team are not able to hoist a victim into the cabin, only lifting them out of the site with the aircraft and carrying them underneath to a point where they can safely be landed. As in Franconia Township, victims are then put in an air ambulance for transport to the hospital. The team’s new rotary wing aircraft will be equipped with a winch that can raise victims up to the helicopter, which will also allow them to perform rescues in darkness.


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Helicopters help rescue man after fall down St. Croix River bluff