PHOENIX -- As it often is during monsoon season, weather was a factor in the rescue of a DPS officer in a car crash near Payson this week, according to the medic who performed the rescue.
Officer Russ Dodge, a DPS paramedic, said he had been monitoring the weather all day in Phoenix because of storm conditions when he received a call about an accident near Payson involving an officer. While there was plenty of rain in the area, Dodge said his crew determined that there would not be any in their path when they responded to the call.
"There were not any heavy thunderstorms or anything in the immediate area," Dodge said. "We did get some rain and some real light winds when we landed."
Once there, Dodge said that the realization that he was attempting to save one of his colleagues was powerful. However, he also said that any kind of emotional reaction can't get in the way of getting the job done.
"It kind of takes your breath away, but then you have to compartmentalize it and know that you're doing a job," Dodge said. "That's what we're there for, that's what our training is. Not just to save other people, but to work on our own."
The officer rescued was Ansumana Dukuly, who had worked for DPS for 18 months. Dukuly was responding to a medical emergency when he rolled his vehicle and was listed in serious condition at John C. Lincoln North Mountain hospital after the crash. The weather is believed to have been a factor in the accident.
Monsoon season weather brings in a variety of calls, from car accidents to hiking issues, according to Dodge. As such, officials said that the ability to read the weather and respond during stormy conditions is vital to DPS helicopters.
Preparation for storm weather might be started days in advance, but it remains unpredictable according to DPS pilot Steven Basler. Weather radar systems have grown more and more reliable, but Basler said they don't always tell the whole story.
"You definitely have to look at the radar before you go," Basler said. "Even when you're looking at the radar, you have to keep in mind that what you're seeing on there might not be reality."
That unpredictability and the dangers of flying into weather make the decision-making process in rescues difficult. Everyone on the flight, typically a two-person crew with a pilot and a medic in the case of the DPS, must unanimously agree to fly in whatever the conditions are before take-off.
With such difficult choices, crews need a precise understanding of the weather. Basler said that knowledge of how weather behaves in the local area, in addition to more technical meteorology knowledge, is necessary.
"Local knowledge is king," Basler said. "It's oftentimes hard to tell that a thunderstorm here's not going to act the same way as a thunderstorm does in the Gulf of Mexico or it does in Indiana. We have a lot of geographical features that can change the weather."