Rescuers share challenges from dramatic Camelback Mountain rescue

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Cameras from our news helicopter captured a dramatic and dangerous hiker rescue Tuesday night on Camelback Mountain.

The woman who needed help was off the trail and stranded in a very steep area.

[RAW VIDEO: Crews rescue woman off of Camelback Mountain]

Scott Hopkins, a rescue pilot with the Phoenix Police Department, flew to the scene with his technical flight officer and the Phoenix Fire Technical Rescue Team.

A second police helicopter provided support by shining a spotlight on the hiker.

Hopkins called it one of the "hardest rescues of his career."

[RELATED: Woman off the trail flown off of Camelback Mountain]

“It was in a bad location on the south face of Camelback Mountain," he said.

It was hard to see in the dark. He was worried the wind would push the helicopter into the steep rocky terrain.

“It’s a highly precise maneuver," Hopkins described about keeping the helicopter steady. "And when you have to battle the wind, it makes it that much harder."  

Hopkins credited the rescue team's excellent communication and night vision goggles for completing the mission safely.

“It’s an outstanding asset to have," he said.

Right now, only four of the Phoenix Police Department's 22 pilots are trained to use the night vision goggles. The department has only had the night vision goggles for pilots to use for about a year. More are expected to be trained on the technology in the future.

"We've rescue at night but never used night vision goggles. This was the first night time night vision goggle hoist rescue that we've completed," he explained.

Capt. Ken Flickinger with the Phoenix Fire Department was responsible for hoisting firefighter Mike Florio down to the hiker and then getting them back into the helicopter.

Flickinger said night rescues are always challenging.

“With her position on the mountain, she (the hiker) is absolutely very fortunate.”

He also gave a pat on the back to Hopkins calling it an excellent example of collaboration between Phoenix Police and Phoenix Fire.

“It was a remarkable job and it was one of those things in my 35 years that I’ll always remember,” said Flickinger. 

The hiker was not hurt, but Phoenix Fire Department wanted to use this rescue situation as a reminder to stay on trails and not hike at night.

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