Bell 407 helicopter pilot Lee Hamilton and flight officer Bill Bevan, both Alabama State Troopers, were honored on April 30 at Fort Payne’s Isbell Field for their rescue of a family stranded and trapped in the raging waters of the Alabama Little River in January.
Hamilton, chief pilot for the Alabama State Troopers’ aviation arm, said the rescue was challenging, but, “It was a typical scenario of how we train. We practice about 15 to 20 times each year, often with other state agencies. Everyone [in the aviation division] wants to go home at night and know that we made a difference.”
In size, Little River Canyon is second only to the Grand Canyon. “Little River is a great place to swim, but after a rain it can swell quickly,” Hamilton told AIN.
“A man, woman and two small children, ages two and four, were trapped in their Jeep all night, in thirty-degree, waist-deep water before their rescue the next afternoon,” he explained. The man eventually escaped the vehicle to call for help. The state helicopter traveled 120 nautical miles from its base in Montgomery to rescue the people, who were suffering severe hypothermia.
The Bell 407 is part of a 14-aircraft flight department based in three Alabama cities and organized to reach any part of the state within an hour.