REDDING, Calif. – A California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer is lucky to be alive after suffering a critical, life-threatening injury while performing a medevac rescue Thursday near Big Bear Lake, a remote and rugged location in the Shasta Trinity Forest. CHP Pilot, Officer Brian Henderson, and Flight Officer/Paramedic, Officer Tony Stanley, had arrived on scene to transport an injured hiker to the hospital, when Officer Stanley was struck by the main rotor blade of the helicopter.
A team of unlikely heroes then quickly worked together to save the severely injured officer’s life. Officer Henderson rendered first aid and summoned the assistance of the injured hiker, Dr. (Major) Jeremy Kilburn, a U.S. Air Force Critical Care Pulmonologist, and Elizabeth Fitch, another hiker.
Dr. Kilburn, of Las Vegas, had broken his leg and injured his ankle while hiking. Fitch, and Bryce Harbert, both of Santa Cruz, had been hiking with a youth group from the Bay Area when they encountered the injured Dr. Kilburn. Harbert assisted in providing necessary medical aid to Officer Stanley, and Dan Grasso, a hiker friend of Dr. Kilburn’s from Sunnyvale, helped him down to Officer Stanley’s position so he could render aid.
“The California Highway Patrol is extremely grateful for the swift actions of these heroes. Thanks to the assistance they provided, Tony is alive today. I cannot even imagine the pain Dr. Kilburn was in, unable to walk, when he rolled down the hill to the location of our injured officer. Without regard to his own injuries and pain, Dr. Kilburn performed critical life-saving steps, ultimately saving the life of our officer,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.
Officer Henderson led the group in a dual rescue providing Dr. Kilburn with the necessary medical equipment and reconfiguring the aircraft. At the direction of Officer Henderson and Dr. Kilburn, Fitch assisted with the loading of Officer Stanley into the helicopter, and throughout the 41-mile flight to Mercy Hospital in Redding, Fitch acted as a flight nurse, holding IV bags, applying direct pressure to control bleeding, and other duties as directed by Dr. Kilburn.
“Dr. Kilburn fought through his own pain to save the life of our officer, highlighting the dedication of our military that put their life on the line every day for our country. Dr. Kilburn’s actions were clearly above and beyond the call of duty,” added Commissioner Farrow. “These individuals are not only heroes, they are guardian angels.”
Officer Stanley, 40, a 10-year veteran of the CHP, remains hospitalized at Mercy Medical Center.