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Pennington County Search and Rescue help pilot who crash landed in the Badlands

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Pennington County Search and Rescue have reported a multi-agency rescue operation after a pilot made a forced landing in the area of Sheep Mountain Table at Badlands National Park.
Search and Rescue issued the following release:
We responded to a report of an aircraft that went down in the area of Sheep Mountain Table in the Badlands National Park. Initial information placed the scene south of Pennington County on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It was uncertain whether the pilot was injured, but both the pilot and plane were reported to be missing. Black Hills Life Flight was requested and upon arriving in the area spotted a flashing light in a deep ravine. Responding departments were guided to the beacon by the helicopter crew and were able to verify that it was an individual. While the distance was too far for verbal communications, light signals were used to ensure the pilot that he had been located and that a rescue was at hand. Search & Rescue set up a vertical rescue and were able to lower personnel into and across the 230 foot deep landscape to reach the pilot part way up the opposite slope. After a medical assessment, the pilot was fitted with a harness, attached to the rope system and was extracted without injury.
What was originally believed to be a crash we later learned was a forced landing due to fuel exhaustion. The pilot had attempted to self-rescue but lost contact with his group. While he had a mobile phone, the signal would not allow any communication to take place. He used the phone for map guidance, but the inhospitable terrain proved difficult. Although prepared to spend the night in the Badlands and resume efforts at daybreak, the pilot heard the sound of the helicopter and turned on the beacon that he had previously turned off to conserve battery.
Badlands Rangers returned to the scene Friday to coordinate the recovery of the ultralight aircraft. The outcome of this call was much better than initially expected due to the pilot’s preparedness, the companion pilot’s quick thinking, the interagency cooperation of all responding agencies, and the behind the scenes support provided by Pennington County Dispatch, Pennington County Emergency Management, Ellsworth AFB, SD Army National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, Highway Patrol and the FAA.
Responding agencies include Oglala Sioux Tribe Emergency Management, National Park Service Badlands Rangers, Black Hills Life Flight, Pennington County Sheriff, Pennington County Search & Rescue, New Underwood Fire Dept and Rapid City Fire Department medics.

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