Utah National Guard assists with rescue of critically injured hiker

WEST JORDAN – Rescue workers from the Utah Department of Public Safety, Summit County Search and Rescue, and the Utah National Guard came together Thursday to reflect on a search and rescue mission that may have saved a 22-year-old hiker’s life.

“That’s the phone call I’ve been waiting for for years,” said Sergeant First Class Zach Kesler, who’s a medic for the Utah National Guard.

In June, state agencies were given the green light to use the National Guard on rescue missions like this.

“I believe this is the first time the Utah Army National Guard has done a real life hoist mission,” said Warrant Officer Tyler Hobbs, a helicopter pilot.

The crew of four responded to an area near King’s Peak in the Uintahs. Two hikers tried taking a shortcut down the mountain but one of them slipped and fell down the mountainside.

Workers from the Department of Public Safety and from Summit County Search and Rescue were unable to lift the hiker out because they lack the certification for a nighttime hoist.

So, they reached out to the Utah Army National Guard.

“We’ve been telling them we can help in these situations,” Kesler said. “We knew it was only a matter of time. So, when I got that call last night it was like: 'Game on.'”

Kesler, the medic in the operation, was dropped down and in less than 20 minutes he was back in the Black Hawk helicopter with the injured hiker. As of Thursday night, the hiker remains in critical condition with injuries to his head and chest.