TUCSON, Ariz. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Air and Marine Operations (AMO) and U.S. Border Patrol extracted a migrant suffering from exposure in the Baboquivari Mountains.
At approximately 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening the U.S. Border Patrol’s Arizona Air Coordination Center (A2C2) received a call routed through Tohono O’odham Police Dispatch that a migrant was lost, in the rain, in distress and in need of medical aid in a remote area of the Baboquivari Mountains. Because the migrant called 911, the system was able to fix his location to within 50 feet.
“Calling 911 is critical to a successful rescue,” said Chief Patrol Agent, Tucson Sector, John Modlin. “GPS coordinates and a working cell phone can make the difference between life and death.”
At around midnight, a Border Patrol Agent from the Tucson Station was able to drive to within 6 miles of the migrant’s location, but the roads became undrivable. The agents used an infrared camera and night vision goggles but was unable to locate the migrant. The migrant was determined to be in steep mountainous terrain on the west side of the Baboquivari Mountains. Due to the terrain, no-light and deteriorated conditions a ground evacuation was not possible. The decision was made to wait for an air asset to extricate the migrant from the location. Throughout the incident, the A2C2 and Border Patrol Search Trauma and Rescue (BORSTAR) were able to communicate with the migrant and reminded him to keep calm, drink his water and stay put. That we would get him out.
At around 7:30 a.m. an AMO AS-350 crew launched from the Tucson Air Branch to verify the migrant’s locations and relayed updated coordinates to the A2C2. Later that morning, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew launched from the Tucson Air Branch and located the migrant, deep in the Baboquivari wilderness. The aircrew conducted a 20-foot Helicopter Rope Suspension Technique insertion of two BORSTAR agents at an elevation of approximately 4,700 feet. After providing medical care the two BORSTAR agents and the patient were extracted via Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES) and transported them to a waiting Border Patrol vehicle. The migrant was not in need of immediate medical care and transported to a Border Patrol facility for a medical screening.
“While our aircraft fleet is equipped with the latest in technology necessary to perform rescues such as this,” said Director of Air Operations, Tucson Air Branch, Michael Montgomery. “I have the utmost confidence in every aircrew to choose the right tool for the job and today's rescue was a great example of a FRIES extraction.”