VALENTINE, TX—On October 25, 2016, an aircrew with Air and Marine Operations (AMO), Alpine Air Unit, located and provided life-saving medical support for a missing snakebite victim near Valentine, Texas.
The victim was part of a large group of illegal immigrants traveling through the desert from Mexico. The guides abandoned the group during the night, causing them to split into smaller groups to continue their trek into the United States. The victim had split into one of the smaller groups and was traveling north when a venomous snake bit him in the leg. The group he was traveling with left him behind with little idea of where he was located or what his condition would be if found.
Two women traveling with the group turned themselves in to the United States Border Patrol when they arrived in Valentine, and alerted them to the man’s condition. An AMO aircrew with an Air and Marine Emergency Medical Service-trained Air Interdiction Agent (AMEMS-AIA) as pilot launched immediately in search of the injured man.
After a search of the location where the women thought the man might be, the aircrew located him exposed to the elements in a vast expanse of desert south of Highway 90. The AMEMS-AIA assessed the man to be suffering from heat-stroke secondary to a venomous snakebite in the lower left leg. AMEMS-AIA Derek Richardson began immediate life-saving medical support, splinted and stabilized the victim, and transported him via helicopter to Big Bend Regional Medical Center in critical condition.
“Providing a humanitarian effort is a large part of what we do at AMO. People are coming into our country illegally every day, and they are risking their lives by crossing rugged terrain and trusting in people who leave them to die,” said Richardson. “We work extremely hard to try to locate and save those who have been abandoned or injured. There are not many guides who actually care about the people they are smuggling into this country; they just take their money and leave the pieces behind for us to pick up.”
The AMEMS program was established by AMO to provide specialized medical capabilities and highly skilled tactical practitioners in austere airborne and maritime environments. The program currently has 64 agents who are trained Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) spread across 37 AMO operating locations in the United States. In FY 2015, AMO EMTs treated 54 individuals, including 26 with severe injuries.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.