NEW MEXICO — A group of Boy Scouts arrived home after being stranded for three days at the Gila National Forest due to extreme weather.
KFOX14 spoke with New Mexico State Police who told us they rescued 16 children and nine adults last weekend from the Gila National Forest who did not come out of a multi day hike.
"They were supposed to be out Thursday I believe and so they actually had to spend Friday night or Thursday night at that location and Friday night as well before we actually had been notified," said Bob Rodgers the New Mexico State Police Search and Rescue coordinator.
On October 8, New Mexico State Police and the New Mexico National Guard were dispatched to the Gila Cliff Dwellings to rescue a troop of Boy Scouts from El Paso who became stranded due to heavy rains.
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NMSP said the initial destination of the Boy Scouts was the White Cabin Creek area.
They planned on returning home through a trail along the West Fork Gila River but got stranded due to high water.
We’re facing a high water river cross especially at the west fork of the Gila river there where we can’t get anybody on the ground out there due to the river condition," said Rodgers.
The New Mexico National Guard pinpointed the location of the Boy Scouts, but the weather made it difficult for the helicopters to fly or even land so they decided to do the extraction the next day.
"There was low ceilings there was strong winds there was rain there was thunderstorms in the vicinity so those are the challenges that we as a pilot have to take into consideration because it can make any mission a high risk mission," said Jose Hernandez the New Mexico National Guard facility supervisor.
On Sunday, the New Mexico State Police Search and Rescue team deployed their rescue specialists to the Boy Scouts' locations to start airlifting them out of the area.
"We got in there we made contact with them we noticed that they were split between two groups and that they were kind of stranded between two pieces of the river that kind of split the group up," said Kurtus Tenorio the hoist operator for New Mexico State Police.
"The river is running pretty violently so it was assessed by them right away hey we have no contact with these people we know where they’re at you know can you guys get overhead and start relaying the information to us which we did the best we could," said Tenorio.
NMSP told KFOX14 they airlifted 20 people out of the area and the New Mexico National Guard airlifted the remaining five people.
The operator of the NMSP helicopter said this was one of the most technical rescues they had ever done but it was all worth it in the end.
"When we first got on scene and said hey there they are we see them it was pretty meaningful there was a lot of hugs a lot of high fives you could see them they saw the relief coming in and that always makes us feel good and it makes us real proud to be doing what we do," said Tenorio.
NMSP told us they advice people to be prepared when doing outdoor activities, such as hiking, and they highly encourage people to take a satellite communication device in case of emergencies.
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