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Drones Used To Rescue Stranded Hikers Near Breakneck Ridge

Police used drones to rescue stranded hikers near Breakneck Ridge.
Police used drones to rescue stranded hikers near Breakneck Ridge. Photo Credit: Putnam County Sheriff's Office

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office turned to technology to help rescue two hikers who found themselves in a precarious position near Breakneck Ridge in Philipstown.

Two hikers called the Sheriff’s Office on Sunday, June 9, after becoming stranded on a steep precipice approximately a half mile south from Breakneck Ridge, Sheriff Robert Langley Jr. said. 

The Cold Spring Fire Department and New York State Park Police located the hikers at approximately 5 p.m., but were unable to rescue them due to the terrain.

Langley said that a command post and staging area was set up near the Cornish Estate Trailhead, which forced a temporary closure of Route 9D. 

The Orange County Technical Rescue Team - which is comprised of firefighters from Newburgh, Port Jervis, West Point, and Sparrowbush - was subsequently called in “due to their expertise in dangerous ‘high-angle’ rescue operations.”

The Technical Team initially was unable to make the rescue due to their ability to evaluate the terrain, prompting them to call in a drone from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.

Putnam County Sheriff’s Sgt. Matthew Monroe and Deputy William Rossiter responded to the scene and helped the Technical Team assess the terrain using two drones, which were piloted above the stranded hikers. The drones provided the Technical Team with a live-feed from their cameras and they were able to come up with a rescue plan.

According to Langley, Monroe and Rossiter are among four members of his office who are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to pilot drones in emergency situations.

“They operate three specialized Unarmed Aerial Systems, purpose-built for life-saving missions,” he said. “The aircraft are equipped with advanced GPS systems, cameras capable of 180-times zoom, FLIR thermal imaging sensors, powerful searchlights, and public address speakers. Arrays of high-tech sensors provide stability in challenging weather conditions and warn the remote pilots of nearby manned-aircraft.”

Shortly before 10 p.m., several firefighters were able to descend down the cliff and recover the two stranded hikers without further incident. No injuries were reported and the operation was wrapped up by 10:17 p.m.

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