A sheriff’s helicopter was deployed to rescue three hikers Saturday in separate incidents in the Tucson and Catalina mountains.
And search and rescue deputies said they expect to get more such calls this weekend as high heat and humidity combine.
Dispatchers received two 911 calls shortly after 9:30 a.m. about hikers with medical issues who were unable to walk out of the Tucson Mountains.
Although the calls were unrelated, the two women were located only a few miles apart on a trail, said Pima County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Deputy Tom Peine.
The first call was from a 37-year-old woman hiking with her husband on the Wasson Peak trail who had sustained a leg injury.
About 10 minutes later, they received a call about a 68-year-old woman with a life-threatening medical issue who was about a mile away from the trailhead. Because of the serious nature of her condition, her extraction was prioritized and the other hiker was contacted to let her know that her rescue would be delayed, Peine said.
The 68-year-old woman, who may have been suffering from heat exhaustion, was recovered by the Sheriff 1 helicopter and taken by a medical chopper to a hospital. She was listed in serious condition, but was stabilizing after initial treatment on the trail, said Northwest Fire spokesman Capt. Adam Goldberg.
She was hiking with her niece and the niece’s 6-year-old daughter, authorities said.
Because the helicopter was already on site and the second hiker was three miles away, Sheriff 1 was used instead of an on-foot rescue to get the 37-year-old woman out of the mountains. She was taken to a hospital by a Picture Rocks ambulance.
Both women began their hikes about 6 a.m. and were recovered and transported to hospitals before noon. Their names were not released.
Earlier in the morning, the sheriff’s Search and Rescue chopper was called out to help an off-roader who became lost in the Santa Catalina Mountains but found his way out before it got there.
Then, shortly before 4 p.m., the Sheriff’s Department learned of another hiker who was stuck near Pima Saddle on the Pima Canyon Trail.
The man was dehydrated about five miles into the canyon in the Coronado National Forest in the Catalinas.
Because a rescue by foot would be a six-hour round trip in 100-degree heat and 30 percent humidity, Sheriff 1 was sent in to avoid posing a risk to rescuers on foot, Peine said.
Tucsonan Oscar Peña, 44, was rescued by the sheriffs chopper on the trail.
Peña said he had hiked to the saddle and decided to come back rather than go on to Vantana Canyon. Then he ran out of water and began to feel symptoms of dehydration and unsteady footing.
He said he considers himself an active person who bikes and hikes and is in good physical shape.
”I’ve seen stories like this before, and always thought those must’ve been tough hikes,” he said, adding: “This wasn’t that tough, but it got to me.”
Peña, who was hiking alone, said he took one bottle of water with about 32 ounces.
“You can always call (911) if you feel like you can’t make it,” said search and rescue Deputy Brian Boll of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
Even if rescuers aren’t deployed, authorities “can talk you through it and talk about options for getting down,” he said, adding that people who need help don’t get billed for a rescue.
Last week, a 63-year-old Tucson teacher and his 12-year-old grandson died while hiking near Gila Bend. It’s believed that the grandfather, Thomas Gillespie, either died of exposure or suffered a medical emergency.
The boy, Robert Miller, probably succumbed to the elements, authorities said.