Pilot Rescued After Making Forced Landing in Badlands National Park

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: Cavan Images

A search and rescue team in South Dakota recently rescued the pilot of a plane that crashed in the state’s Badlands National Park.

The pilot was forced to land earlier this week due to fuel exhaustion. According to officials, the pilot did everything he could to get himself out of the area. Despite this, a lack of cell signal and difficult terrain made it much too tricky for the pilot to do this alone.

However, luckily the pilot had a beacon with him that helped rescue crews locate him. The Black Hills Life Flight also came in to help rescuers navigate the deep ravine and eventually find the pilot.

On Friday, Badlands National Park Rangers returned to the scene to coordinate the recovery of the aircraft.

Per reports, the Washington Army National Guard medical flight crew from 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation, rescued an injured hiker. The hiker was in a densely wooded area on October 15.

Badlands National Park: Washington National Guard rescues injured hiker

“The hiker suffered a fall approximately five miles from the nearest trailhead, sustained a chest injury, and was unable to self-extract,” said Maj. Kevin Robillard, executive officer for the 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation. “Our crew immediately loaded up and departed in response.”

The pilot in command, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ryan Kennedy, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Marty Hayes, assisted by Staff Sgt. Travis Bearden, Sgt. Ty Thompson, Spc. Nicholas Ehrenheim and Maj. Danny Jones launched their Black Hawk helicopter to conduct the rescue.

After they arrived, they observed the signaling device the injured hiker used to hail the aircraft.
Bearden and Thompson were then hoisted to the ground to determine the individual’s injuries. Then, they prepared the hiker for extraction after ensuring he was okay.

Many trails in the Cascade Mountains are in dense forests or along steep terrain. To perform the mission as safely as possible, the aircraft was forced to maintain a solid hover more than 120 feet from the ground. This maneuver helped the aircraft avoid tall trees.

The patient was safely loaded and flown to a nearby ambulance.
“The successful execution of this rescue hoist mission further demonstrates the capabilities and exceptional readiness of our Washington Army National Guard aircrews,” said Robillard.

According to the Washington National Guard, this type of extraction is fairly routine. For example, in August 2020, a Black Hawk helicopter crew rescued three injured people. The rescue mission followed a rockslide south of Mount Rainier.

Then, in July 2015, another Black Hawk team successfully rescued three lost hikers. They were in the area of Rimrock Lake near Yakima.

Previously in March 2014, the Washington National Guard started a search and rescue-focused training in collaboration with Snohomish County.