Chelsea Tugaw made history back in 2021 by becoming the first woman pilot hired by the Utah Department of Public Safety.
Fast-forward to late June 2022, when floodwaters took Capitol Reef National Park.
Tugaw and her team responded to the scene and for life-saving rescues.
"So the park was pretty full, and that area, in particular, is called Ground Wash," Tugaw said. "It's kind of a canyon that goes down through the park. And there were a lot of visitors in that area at the time of the flooding that got caught."
The helicopter pilot told the hosts of America’s Weather Center that some people got stuck in their vehicle.
"There were a few that ended up in the middle of the flood that we had to pull out," Tugaw said.
One group was swept by the floodwaters for a considerable distance.
"A couple had gotten caught in their vehicle at the time, and they were swept down the river quite a ways. They were actually able to kick out one of the windows in their vehicle and climb out of their car onto higher ground," Tugaw stated. "We ended up hoisting them out of that area as well. The wife sustained some slight lacerations on her arm, but other than that, it was a miracle."
The pilot noted that the rescue wouldn’t have been possible without such a talented team of responders.
"So basically, my job is just the safe operation of the aircraft," Tugaw said. "We work as a team together and the guys that I work with are just phenomenal at their job."
Tugaw went on to explain how her team operates so efficiently during a rescue operation.
"I just fly the aircraft, and I just hold a hover while we have a hoist operator that drops that line down with a rescue specialist on it. The rescue specialist will hook up the patient, and we pull them back up to the aircraft and fly them to safety," Tugaw said.
The history-making pilot Utah stressed the importance of monitoring the conditions outside and avoiding severe weather.
"And if you're going to anywhere like Capitol Reef, always look at the weather beforehand and make sure that you're not going during a time when there can be thunderstorms in the area," Tugaw said.
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