Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
26 Jun 1994
On June 26, 1994, the US Air Force 305th Rescue Squadron at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, was responding to a rescue of a stranded hiker in the Sierra Ancha Mountains. Their HH-60G Blackhawk autorotated into the steep canyon, where it sustained significant damage. The engine continued to run for an hour after the crash, and there was a small fire that resulted as well. The Air Force crew was assisting rescuers from Gila County Sheriff’s Department Rescue Team.
An increased air temperature leading to high density altitude at the rescue site combined with the confines of a steep narrow canyon allowed the recirculation of engine exhaust to overheat the engine. Aircraft radio communication with ground personnel was hampered by incompatibility between military and civilian equipment. Most notably the decision to request a helicopter for this mission was later questioned by the Air Force, since the use of the hoist is restricted to ‘life or death’ situations.
One crewmember was pinned between the helicopter and a boulder resulting in amputation of his leg above the knee. Three other crewmembers received minor injuries. During the subsequent rescue, a local television helicopter assisted by throwing down axes into the rocky ravine to aid rescuers in the extrication. During that effort, radio traffic captured the pilot asking, “Do you guys have any oxygen you can throw down to them?” ndeed oxygen cylinders were dropped, but fortunately away from any rescuers.