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Summit County Sheriff Department Uses Drone To Find Stranded Skier

Summit County Sheriff’s office used a drone to rescue a stranded woman Wednesday.

Summit County dispatch received a phone call around 4:00 pm from the 33-year-old Salt Lake City woman. Summit County Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright said the woman had gone cross country skiing in the Summit Park area with her dog when one of her skis malfunctioned and her dog became separated from her. Wright says in order to locate the woman the department sent out one of their drones.

“We at the Sheriff's Office have four drones that we're able to use in scenarios like this, or if someone's lost such as in search and rescue operation, or even if a suspect were to flee from our deputies,” Lt. Wright continued. “We have the ability to launch these drones and it gives us a quick view. So, we had deputies that went up there. One of our deputies actually had a pair of snowshoes in his vehicle and strapped his snowshoes on and started hiking up the trail to try to locate this stranded hiker.”

While the woman remained on the phone with dispatch the county sent the drone up in the air. She was able to tell the department she could hear the drone and based on the sound they were able to quickly find her with the drone.

“We were able to relay that information to the deputy that was on snowshoes,” Lt. Wright said. “He was able to hike to her and help her out of the area back down to the trailhead.”

The department was unable to locate the dog that afternoon. However, some friends of the woman returned to the area later that evening. They found the dog, hungry and tired but otherwise in good condition.

Lt. Wright says that the sheriff’s department has had drones for about three years and have utilized them in the past, but the program has become more robust over the years.

“We see the value of this technology,” Lt. Wright explained. “We've had other instances on search and rescue operations. I recall an incident a year or two ago where a suspect has fled in a residential area over in Silver Springs. We were able to launch a drone at that time and look in areas that normally couldn't quickly look without having a lot more boots on the ground, a lot more resources. So, again it gives us that birds eye view and allows us to get into places much more quickly.”

Lt. Wright says they train deputies from several divisions on how to operate the drones in order to be in compliance with the FAA.

“Great technology that we're able to utilize to bring situations like this to closure and to get resources there quicker,” Lt. Wright continued. “As we utilized this program more and more, we will see about adding drones to our fleet. Be able to utilize them even out on a patrol basis, get a drone in the air very quickly to bring resolution to any kind of incident that we're on."

KPCW reporter David Boyle covers all things in the Heber Valley as well as sports and breaking news.
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