TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Border Patrol agents, assisted by Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office (SCCSO), Department of Public Safety (DPS) and an Air and Marine Operation (AMO) aircrew, rescued five migrants in distress on atop the Santa Rita Mountains, Thursday morning.
Rescue efforts began late Wednesday after Tucson Sector Border Patrol received a 9-1-1 call from a man, who along with his four companions, was stranded on the snow-capped mountain.
SCCSO, who was also contacted by the man, coordinated rescue efforts with a DPS aircrew. Shortly after 1:00 a.m. Thursday morning, the DPS aircrew notified Border Patrol they had located the group, but had postponed rescue operations until daybreak due to hazardous conditions.
Shortly after daybreak, agents assigned to both the Border Patrol Search Trauma and Rescue team and the Nogales Station, reached the location of the group on foot and medically stabilized the men.
Border Patrol said all five men, three Honduran nationals and two Mexican nationals, were in the country illegally. The men were exhausted and had injuries caused by the snow and freezing temperatures to their extremities.
Agents requested an AMO UH-60 helicopter equipped with a hoist to extract the men to a nearby road where medical personnel from the Green Valley Fire District transported them to a local hospital for treatment.
Three of the five were transported to Banner University Medical Center - one for hypothermia and two for exposure, according to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office.
Once medically cleared the men will be processed for immigration violations.
One of the men told authorities that he was aware, that he ‘knew’ the area because he had been caught by BP agents there before, according to Sheriff Estrada.
The five did not have the proper clothing to travel through that area in cold weather, according to Sheriff Estrada, and Florida Canyon is very rugged and dangerous terrain; they were very lucky they had a form of communication or it could have been a bad ending.
Arizona’s desert is dangerous for those unprepared for its remote, harsh terrain and unpredictable weather. The Border Patrol advises anyone in distress to call 9-1-1 or activate a rescue beacon as soon as possible.