SEDONA, Ariz. (AP/KNWA/KFTA) — Three stranded climbers from Northwest Arkansas have been rescued from snow-covered Haribo Canyon in Sedona, Arizona, by a helicopter crew with the Arizona Army National Guard, the U.S. Defense Department said.
Husband and wife, Scott and Crystal Brand, along with their best friend, Dakota Reynolds, were hoisted up and flown to a command post by a U-H 60 Blackhawk crew so they could be driven to a hospital.
The department also said the helicopter crew hoisted up four members of a local rescue team from the same area.
The rescues happened Tuesday as residents around northern Arizona were digging themselves out from the latest in a series of winter storms. The one that hit the state Sunday and moved out Tuesday afternoon dumped more than 2 feet of snow in parts of Flagstaff, Prescott, Show Low and Payson, according to the National Weather Service.
Search and rescue crews and volunteers from Yavapai, Coconino, Gila, and Maricopa counties were immediately deployed, along with DPS Ranger and the Air National Guard Blackhawk helicopters.
As ground teams hiked for two days through extremely rough terrain and 18 inches of snow, weather conditions prevented several attempts by aircrews to rescue the hikers.
“I can’t express how dangerous the conditions were for our first responders. They risked their lives and worked around the clock in an effort to get to the stranded hikers. I want to thank them for all of their efforts and their continued service to our county and our state,” said Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes.
The weather cleared around 4 p.m. Tuesday, and the Air National Guard Blackhawk helicopter was able to launch, rescuing all three hikers.
They were transported to the hospital and treated for weather-related injuries.
“Considering the severe weather, these hikers are extremely lucky to be alive. This is an important reminder to pay attention to the weather conditions before embarking on our trails. Winter or summer, Arizona trails can be dangerous if you aren’t prepared,” said Rhodes. “We don’t want anyone to be stranded and the lives of our first responders were put at risk during this mission.”
The Brands were making their way back to Arkansas on Thursday evening.