911 tape reveals more on dramatic canyon rescue

Helicopter pilot recounts hiker's rescue from cliff

POSTED: 6:16 PM PDT September 25, 2012 
REDMOND, Ore. -

Just after 7 o'clock Friday night, Jefferson County 911 got a panicked call from Ben Hyatt of Redmond.

"You're trapped on the side of a cliff on the Crooked River?" asked the 911 dispatcher.

"That's correct, yes, I can't get up or down," replied Hyatt.

The 42-year-old was on a hike when he ran out of water. He decided he would trek down to the river below him to get some more, but soon he found himself in just jeans and tennis shoes, clinging to a cliff.

"How long have you been down there?" asked the dispatcher.

"Uh, I've been down here a couple of hours trying to get down, and then I got stuck, I've been down here about three hours." said Hyatt.

Dangerous terrain and a 300-foot vertical drop kept crews with ropes from getting to Hyatt, but they kept in contact with him throughout the night.

Saturday morning, a Black Hawk helicopter from the Oregon National Guard was called in. The pilot, Capt. Nathan Edgecomb, couldn't believe what he saw.

"The instinct was, 'Holy cow, how'd that guy get there?'" Edgecomb told us Tuesday by phone.

The crew's first attempt to get to Hyatt failed.

"My hoist operator that was dropping the medic on the cable wasn't actually able to see the guy in the hill," said Edgecomb.

Time was ticking by, Edgecomb worried Hyatt would slip off the two-by-three foot ledge.

"It's like watching Survivor, when they're doing those stunts, you know like who can stand on the pole the longest?" said Edgecomb. "It just takes one second of mental lapse and you slip and fall."

With no other options and Hyatt losing strength, Edgecomb relied on the medic's hand signals.

"He was telling me where to move the aircraft to get into a better position, which is something I've never done before," said Edgecomb.

Another first for the veteran pilot was using what he calls a "horse collar" to hoist Hyatt out of the canyon.

"We usually drop a jungle penetrator, which is kind of a little two-seat thing to pluck somebody -- but we just couldn't get it in there," said Edgecomb.

After a brief stop in some sagebrush to adjust, Hyatt was lifted hundreds of feet off the ground to safety.

"Kudos to him for sticking it out that long, especially throughout the night," said Edgecomb.

Firefighters from Crooked River Ranch stayed with Hyatt through the night, yelling back and forth with him after he lost his cellphone. When crews initially got on the scene that night, it was already dark, and they were able to locate Hyatt by the light on his cellphone.