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Video: CBP helicopter hoists migrant from remote Az mountain range

A helicopter crew from U.S. Customs and Border Protection pulled a migrant from a mountain range in a remote part of southern Arizona on Sunday morning, hoisting the dehydrated man from the rugged terrain following a 911 call.

Video released by the agency shows the rescue, including imagery from agents' helmets as the helicopter crew hoisted the migrant up to a hovering Blackhawk.

Agents manning the agency's Arizona Air Coordination Center received a call routed through Pima County's 911 system Sunday morning, and spoke to a migrant who said he was alone and in distress, said Rob Daniels, a CBP spokesman.

The man said he was throwing up, that his bones ached, he was shivering, and had lost his appetite. He also told agents he had COVID-19 a month ago, and was feeling the same body aches that he felt during his bought with the novel coronavirus, Daniels said. During the call, the agents determined that he was stranded deep in the Baboquivari Mountain Range, more than 20 miles north of the border, and about 45 miles southwest of Tucson within the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Around 8:30 a.m., a helicopter with the Tucson Branch of Air and Marine Operations launched, carrying a Border Patrol medic aboard.

"Without hesitation, despite the risk from COVID-19, agents from both AMO and USBP routinely place themselves at risk to help their fellow man," said Michael Montgomery, the director of AMO's Tucson Branch. "The integration coordinated, and information gleaned by the A2C2 has led to more efficient search operations and better outcomes throughout the summer of 2021 in the Sonoran Desert."

The helicopter crew found the man in the desert, but could not find a place to land the helicopter nearby because of steep and thick vegetation, Daniels said, so the aircrew hoisted an Aviation Enforcement Agent Rescue Specialist about 60 feet to the ground as the Blackhawk lumbered overhead.

The agent trained as an EMT evaluated the man, and learned he was suffering from dehydration, Daniels said.

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Video from the rescue shows the aircrew extracting both men from the mountain range using the hoist. After they were brought onboard, the Rescue Specialist and the Border Patrol EMT checked on their patient, and the Border Patrol EMT started an IV of normal saline to treat the man for dehydration.

By mid-morning, the man was transferred to a waiting Border Patrol Search Trauma and Rescue team or BORSTAR for further medical treatment, said Daniels.
"The collaboration between CBP components in Arizona is unmatched," said Sabri Dikman, the acting chief of the Tucson Sector. "Integrated aircrews and hoist capable helicopters have saved numerous lives since their introduction in Arizona."

Aircrews with AMO were credited with 423 rescues during the last fiscal year which ended on September 30, and U.S. Border Patrol agents conducted nearly 13,000 search and rescues, according to agency statistics. 

In May, agents pulled a 24-year-old Guatemalan man from the Baboquivari range after he called 911.

No More Deaths, an advocacy group that aids migrants crossing the desert, said earlier this year that Border Patrol too often fails to search for migrants. In a report released in February, the group said that a Clinton-era policy enforced by Border Patrol has pushed people into increasingly remote terrain. The strategy, known as Prevention through Deterrence, was designed to keep people from coming to the U.S. by using the desert as a natural barrier, but instead, thousands of people attempted the crossing and died. No More Deaths said that that in recent years, Border Patrol has also "positioned itself as the primary and often sole responder to distress calls involving undocumented people."

The Tucson Air Branch covers more than 365 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, and fly aircraft from the border north to Nevada and Utah, covering more than 114,000 square miles desert. Most of the agency's effort is concentrated against narcotic and human smuggling, Daniels said.

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CBP

CBP agents give an IV to a migrant found stranded in the Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson on Sunday morning.