Police helicopter plucks stranded man from river bottom

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Man rescued from river bottom by police helicopter. (Source: Mesa Police Department) Man rescued from river bottom by police helicopter. (Source: Mesa Police Department)
Man rescued from river bottom by police helicopter. (Source: Mesa Police Department) Man rescued from river bottom by police helicopter. (Source: Mesa Police Department)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A man stranded in flowing water in the Salt River bottom had to be rescued by police helicopter last week.

Mesa police spokesman Steve Berry said last Thursday evening around 7:40 p.m. rescue units were called to an area of the Salt River just north of Sloan Park after a person out for a walk heard someone calling for help.

[RAW VIDEO: Crews rescue man from river bottom]

"It's about being at the right place at the right time with the equipment to do the job," Ofc. Karl Ehrhardt with the Mesa Police Department said.

Once crews arrived they saw a man perched on some debris and stranded by flowing water in the river bottom, said Berry.  Due to recent rain, the river is flowing at a substantial rate.

"He said he was standing on a shopping cart and the water there was probably 10 feet deep," Ofc. Darren Rigsby with the Mesa Police Department said.

Rescuers decided to use the police helicopter to get to the man and hover over him, said Berry.  The man was, "able to hold onto the skid of the helicopter and was lifted to safety and put down on the shoreline where officers and medics assisted," said Berry.

"We got in close enough and right as he was grabbing it that's when Ofc. Ehrhardt said we were brushing the tips of the blades brushed the top of a tree," Rigsby said.

Although cold and wet, the man was uninjured.  Officers learned the man is a transient living in the river bottom and was caught off guard by the release of water from dams upstream.  

"I think it's part of the job, you know. We had the tools available. We had the experience that we could do it and we made a decision to get this guy out of the water," Rigsby said.

He told police that he had created a small raft to try and retrieve his belonging from an island in the river when he was swept away by the rushing water, said Berry. He said that due to the current he was unable to make it back to shore.

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