INDEPENDENCE, Calif. - A hiker in Southern California was pinned underneath a massive boulder on a hillside for seven hours until volunteers freed him in a bold nighttime rescue last week, officials said Friday.
The boulder, estimated to weigh between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds, trapped the unidentified man in the Inyo Mountains just below Santa Rita Flat near Independence on Tuesday, the Inyo County Search and Rescue said.
A California Highway Patrol helicopter dropped off two rescuers on the mountain while seven others followed in vehicles through a network of four-wheel drive roads, officials said.
The team reached the hiker after nightfall and found him "in great pain with his left leg pinned beneath a large boulder on a steep hillside," according to the volunteer rescuer service.
Team members used a system of ropes and pulleys to move the boulder just enough to free the hiker, whose injuries were assessed and stabilized.
"Due to the seriousness of the hiker’s injuries and the difficulty of the terrain, it was decided to extricate the hiker despite the darkness using a helicopter from US Naval Air Station Lemoore," rescuers said.
Since the steep, rocky terrain did not afford the helicopter a suitable place to land, a U.S. Navy medic rappelled from the helicopter and hoisted the injured hiker into the helicopter.
The hiker was flown to Fresno to receive treatment after midnight. No update on his condition was immediately available.
The remaining rescuers descended the mountain and did not reach their base in Bishop until 4 a.m., officials said.
Rescuers said the numerous challenges faced during the daring mission included the "coordination of multiple agencies and resources; accessing an accident scene in steep, loose rocky terrain; using limited resources to move a large boulder; managing a severely injured patient for several hours while awaiting the helicopter extrication; assisting in a nighttime helicopter hoist; all in chilly December darkness."
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