News Releases

FWC uses valuable aviation asset to rescue parachutist

News Release

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Media contact: Katie Purcell 850-459-6585

When Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) pilot David Calianno learned Sunday that there was a parachutist missing from Quincy, he called fellow pilot John McDonald to meet him with the FWC Huey helicopter.

"Local law enforcement informed us that strong winds forced the parachutist to land in a swamp south of the Quincy Airport," McDonald said. "He had fallen in water and mud up to his waist and was surrounded by dense foliage and fallen trees."

Helicopters from the Leon County Sheriff's Office and Air Methods located the victim, but were unable to reach him due to the terrain. FWC K-9 Officer Ros Welborn and his partner, Harley, were called to assist, but were unable to move through the water to the parachutist.

Calianno and McDonald, along with FWC pilot Garret Fields, were able to navigate the Huey close enough to see the man.

"We brought the helicopter down between the trees and hovered near the water," McDonald said.

"Fields was able to reach out to the victim and pull him onboard the helicopter."

The pilots transported the man back to the Quincy Airport, where paramedics confirmed he had no serious injuries. One of the pilots, who is retired from the U.S Coast Guard, found a common thread with the victim: He is an active USCG member deployed to Northwest Florida for the Deepwater Horizon response.

The FWC's Huey was originally built for the Vietnam War. Its large size and durability enable it to function well in search-and-rescue missions. The Huey is part of FWC's statewide Aviations Unit, made up of eight helicopters and seven fixed-wing aircraft. The unit is not only valuable in enforcing boating, fish and wildlife laws, but it also partners with state, federal and local law enforcement entities to support public safety.

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