EL PASO, Texas — CBP Offices of Air and Marine from El Paso and Alpine, Texas and Deming, New Mexico have been busy over the past several days conducting air rescues of stranded residents and hikers due to high flood waters.
On Sept. 23, two people who had been stranded by flooding in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, along with two additional hikers, were extracted to safety by an OAM aircraft from the El Paso Air Branch, “Deming Air Unit”. The New Mexico State Police had initially requested air support for the stranded hikers in the Gila. While searching for those hikers, OAM pilots and crew came upon two others who got caught in high water conditions and needed help. An OAM AS350 helicopter dropped provisions with instructions on where to go for extraction. After receiving authorization from the United States Forest Service for a landing in the wilderness, members of the OAM aircrew were able to reach those stranded the following day, where they conducted two lifts extracting all four persons to safety.
One day before in Texas, the Alpine-Texas OAM Air Branch worked in conjunction with Texas DPS, to extract a large stranded group in a canyon 10 miles southwest of Balmorhea, Texas, including a hiker with a severe leg injury.
That rescue effort first began when a group of hikers parked their vehicle and began walking. While descending into the canyon, a woman fell about 20-feet to the bottom, suffering leg trauma. Texas DPS received the initial distress call, and was able to take emergency assistance to the stranded persons. However, due to inclement weather, the rescue had to be postponed.
The following day, an OAM UH-1H helicopter crew was dispatched, along with a DPS AS350 aircraft, to extract the people stranded in the canyon. The operation was hampered by a heavy fog bank and inclement weather, but TX-DPS and OAM personnel were successful in the final extraction of more than 20 people who had been stranded once the weather cleared.
In 2014, CBP Office of Air and Marine Branches in El Paso, Alpine and Deming, performed 15 search and rescue support operations for state and local agencies, while extracting 35 persons to safety. These do not include a number of search and rescue operations conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector.
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.