Cameras capture dramatic rescue of teens stranded atop Sierra Buttes peak

6:51 PM, Jun 18, 2013   |    comments
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16-year-old Austin Deschler and his friend stuck atop an 8,600 ft. peak on the Sierra Buttes.

SIERRA BUTTES, Calif. - Two teen boys were rescued after being stranded on an 8,600 ft tall peak in the Sierra Buttes.

Austin Deschler, 16, of Grass Valley was camping with his family Saturday when he and a friend decided to hike to a peak, and snap a photo. 

"We thought we could walk across the ridge, when we got up there and saw the other side it was heartbreaking - we actually almost cried because, it's gone... That's when we realized, we're in trouble," Deschler said.

"As we went up there we made decisions to get up, that made it so we couldn't get back," Deschler explained.

Deschler and his friend found themselves stuck thousands of feet high on a narrow ridge with nowhere to go.

"You couldn't really move around that much, not safely," said Deschler.

Fortunately for the teens, there was a lookout about 100 yards away, where hikers spotted the boys and called 911.

California Highway Patrol Flight Officer David White led the rescue mission to get the boys down to safety.

"It was the most challenging that I've ever done in my 12 years in air operations," White said.

Austin says it was a relief when they saw the helicopter circling above.

With daylight fading, the race was on to rescue the teens, but because the peak was so rigid, there was nowhere to land the chopper. So while hovering above, officers dropped a cable with a hook to attach to a harness. 

"We lowered down the harness, which has instructions in it both pictures and text on how to install it and how to make sure it's on safely, then we lower down the hook," White explained.

But wind gusts reaching 25-30 miles per hour at the ridgeline made the rescue more challenging.

"We had to make several attempts to get to them. We lowered the hook a couple of times but the wind would blow us out of our position and we'd have to go back around and try it again," White said.

"That was terrifying," Deschler explained.

By now, Austin's father had learned it was his son stranded at the top. As the helicopter circled around the ridgeline, he was watching from the ground, his son's life in the hands of strangers.

"It's my oldest son, right? I mean, you don't recover from something like that," said Austin's father.

After several rescue attempts and nearly four hours stranded atop the peak,  the teens were rescued.

Deschler says he learned a big lesson when hiking: "Stay on the trail, definitely stay on the trail."

Austin's father expressed his utmost thanks to those who reunited him with his son on Father's Day.

"[I'm] Just really grateful for that other guy that probably has kids too; he's out there on the eve of Father's Day taking care of my boy."

The California Highway Patrol is funded through the Department of Motor Vehicles, so there is no out-of-pocket expense for those who utilize their rescue services.


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