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CBP: Yuma helicopter crew rescues woman near Ajo

A helicopter crew with U.S. Customs and Border Protection rescued a Honduran woman on Oct. 22 in the remote desert southwest of Ajo, Ariz. after they spotted a signal fire, authorities said. 

A helicopter crew with the Yuma Branch of Air and Marine Operation's, a part of CBP, spotted the signal fire about 19 miles southwest of Ajo, an unincorporated town about 110 miles west of Tucson. The crew landed nearby, just as the woman collapsed and fell unconsciousness, said Meredith Mingledorff, a CBP spokeswoman. 

The woman, identified only as 41-year-old Honduran national was treated at the scene until a LifeFlight helicopter could carry her to a local regional hospital where she was she was admitted for advanced medical care, Mingledorff said. 

In a press release announcing the rescue published Monday, James Schuetzler, the director of the Yuma Air Branch praised his crew. 

"I am incredibly proud of this aircrew," Schuetzler sad. "Their attention to detail and keen sense of awareness proved lifesaving in this situation. This woman was in severe distress and we were lucky to find her in time. While I am glad we could rescue her, I urge people not to take this risk of crossing the border illegally is too dangerous and never worth risking a life."

Agency officials said that anyone in distress should either call 911 immediately,  or activate a rescue beacon if possible, arguing that those methods are the "fastest ways to alert first responders and pinpoint the location where help is needed," Mingledorff said. 

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A crewman with CBP's Air and Marine Operations treats a Honduran woman after she collapsed on Tuesday, Oct. 22. The woman set a signal fire and the helicopter crew spotted the flames and flew to where she was about 19 miles southwest of Ajo, Ariz.