Three members of the Fairfax County (Virginia) police department’s helicopter unit are the winners of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association’s 2013 Gus Crawford Air Crew of the Year Award for their rescue of two small lost boys last January. The award was presented at the association’s annual convention in late July.
On the afternoon of January 25, crewmembers Tim Schilling, Paul DeHaven and pilot Garrett Wymer were called in by a neighboring sheriff’s department to assist in the search for the boys, aged five and 10, fifty miles away in dense woods near Spotsylvania, Va., as snow rolled in and temperatures fell into the 20s. After searching for 45 minutes and running out of daylight and low on fuel, the crew located the boys sheltering under a log with their Bell 429’s infrared camera and then were able to direct ground searchers to their location. “We had to worry about not only fuel but also incoming weather,” Schilling said.
Fairfax operates a pair of Bell 429s equipped with glass cockpit, Becker DVCS6100 digital audio system, Avalex moving map, L-3 Wescam MX10 forward looking infrared (Flir), Trakkabeam A800 searchlight and a full medical transport suite. Fairfax dispatches with one pilot and two cross-trained paramedic/tactical flight officers (TFOs). The front-seat TFO is responsible for scene navigation and communication with ground units while the back-seater operates the Flir. Crews work 12-hour shifts. Teams can self-dispatch based on their own judgment or when requested.
“The children had been missing for a long time. This is one of those cases in your career when you know the equipment and the crew you are working with truly made a difference in the outcome and the lives of these two children,” DeHaven said. “It truly was a job well done and it is nice to be recognized for it.”