MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Coordination with an eye in the sky has become an important part of safely stopping wrong-way drivers in Arizona.

[VIDEO: Helicopters can be key in stopping wrong-way drivers]

An example of this came Wednesday night, when the Mesa Police Department’s Falcon helicopter was deployed to the US 60, where 66-year-old Edward Sandoval barreled westbound in the eastbound lanes.

“As your troopers are responding to this wrong-way driver, they’re thinking, OK, what am I gonna do to stop this wrong-way driver from hitting someone else?” said Department of Public Safety information officer Kameron Lee.

But using the chopper’s powerful spotlight, officers up above lit up the truck down below.

“To illuminate him, draw attention to him, maybe distract him, make him realize he’s doing something wrong,” said Mesa Police Department helicopter pilot Darren Rigsby.

It’s a tactic that air units in the Valley have developed when dealing with wrong-way drivers.

“At times, during the daylight, we may come down a little lower, so now drivers are saying, ‘Why’s there a helicopter lower?’ And then they can see the traffic in front of them,” Rigsby said.

But potentially most useful: the helicopter’s ability to see what those on the ground cannot.

“As soon as we have eyes on the vehicle, we’re going to give them real-time information,” Rigsby said.

And in this case that information paid off: Troopers stopped the truck and arrested Sandoval for aggravated DUI and at least 15 counts of endangerment.

“We all have one mission,” Lee said. “And that’s to keep everyone safe.”

 


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