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Rescue Uses Chopper, Night Vision, Cell Phones

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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By John Lauritsen, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The mission of Life Link III is to try and save people, not search for them, but on Wednesday night in the far reaches of Northern Minnesota, they were asked to go on a different mission.

Six people were lost in the woods, and the Lake County Sheriff wanted Life Link to help.

“They told us they thought the hikers were east and north, and we were able to find them in minutes,” said Tom Mayo, flight nurse for Life Link.

It was so easy, it was almost boring.

Life Link left Hibbing at 1:30 a.m. and found the forest service workers in 15 minutes, a rescue that wouldn’t have been possible a couple years ago.

The people on the ground were actually using their cell phones to catch the attention of the people from above. Something the helicopter crew never would have seen without their night vision goggles.

A couple years ago, all Life Link III helicopters were equipped with these goggles.

The difference has been night and day, literally. Greg Peterson, who works for Life Link’s Anoka base, can’t stress that enough.

“Towers you wouldn’t be able to see that are miles away, you can see very clearly and they look big and bright to us. A tiny campfire looks very big,” said Peterson.

So do cell phones; they appear a bright green in the dark, which is why Wednesday night’s crew didn’t mind trying something new.

“It was great,” said Mayo. “I had only done it one other time and that was a day search, so the night vision goggles didn’t come into play. But when we left here last night, we were very confident we were going to be able to find them.”

After locating the missing workers, Life Link III used a spotlight to guide ground rescuers to them. All six people were okay.

The night vision goggles cost $10,000 apiece.

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