OUTDOORS + RECREATION

DPS helicopter rescues trending up this year

Mar 21, 2023, 1:00 PM

dps helicopter pictured...

A Department of Public Safety helicopter transports Wasatch Backcountry Rescue team members during a search for an overdue skier in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY— The Department of Public Safety is on pace to shatter its helicopter rescue totals from 2022.

DPS Chief Pilot Luke Bowman told KSL NewsRadio they’ve already conducted 200 helicopter operations, just 80 days into 2023.

Last year they had 538 air missions. About half of those last year and this year were search and rescue-related.

Mathematically speaking, DPS averaged 1.47 air missions and 0.73 rescue missions per day in 2022.

So far in 2023, they are averaging 2.5 total helicopter missions per day. 1.25 of those are search and rescue.

Why so many?

Bowman said staying safe in the outdoors really comes down to preparation.

“Most of the search and rescues that we do, the people are not prepared for what they are getting themselves into,” Bowman said.

While air rescues are happening around the state between DPS three helicopters, Bowman said one of the biggest areas this year has been southern Utah.

Just last week, Search and Rescue had to hoist 18 people out of slot canyons in Buckskin Gulch along the Utah/Arizona border following flash flooding.

“Once you get into a slot canyon and then…the flash flood starts coming there’s nowhere to go…so we’ve seen a huge impact,” Bowman said.

Bowman even said they spoke to some people who went into Buckskin Gulch the day before, but they still chose to go in. Two people later died in Buckskin Gulch.

How to prepare

Bowman encouraged anyone heading out should prepare with the following:

  • A form of communication if cell service goes out.
  • Plenty of food and water.
  • Checking the forecast before going out.

Bowman said even if rain is falling 30 miles away, it can quickly turn a slot canyon into a hazard.

“A little bit of preparation goes a long way,” Bowman said.

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DPS helicopter rescues trending up this year