Rescue teams ready as hikers hit trails in southern Arizona

Updated: Mar. 14, 2017 at 3:07 PM MST
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. - So many people hiked to Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon this past weekend that the crowds looked more like a concert than a nature trail, according to rescue teams who hovered above it.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety Helicopter Ranger Team airlifted six people to safety on Sunday, March 11, according to DPS.

"That's the most technical rescues I've ever done in one day," said pilot Hunter French, who's been flying for DPS for 23 years.

The first call was for four stranded hikers in Sycamore Creek from the night before, according to French. He said grounds teams had made contract with the group and the air rescue was scheduled for Sunday morning.

French said most rescue calls are in remote areas, so a popular destination like Seven Falls presents a challenge because there is no good place to land.

"Seven Falls is probably one of the hardest areas for us because there are so many people on the weekends," he said. "Especially this past weekend, I've never seen so many people."

Trooper/paramedic Phil Castellano said he expected Sunday would be a busy one as soon as he saw the crowds.

The day's second call came from the Seven Falls area where a man had fallen and hurt himself, according to DPS. Both he and his hiking partner had to be airlifted out.

Castellano said he hasn't noticed a typical hiker who needs to be rescued over the years. He said some are genuinely hurt from an accident while others weren't prepared for the worst.

Castellano suggests hikers should never hike alone, always tell someone where and when they'll be hiking and pack a gallon of water for even a short hike.

"Plan for the un-plan-able, really," he said.

Both Castellano and French encourage people enjoying the outdoors to take care of themselves, but they are ready for more calls now that the weather in southern Arizona has warmed up.

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