NEW YORK (CBS 2) — The New York City police officers who risked their own lives to rescue two West Point cadets stuck on the side of a mountain spoke with CBS 2 Monday about the ordeal.
These men lived up to their motto “anytime, anywhere” when the call came in just after midnight Sunday. Officer Steve Browning, with more than two decades of experience as a helicopter pilot, was at the controls.
Two freshmen cadets were trapped on a jagged cliff on Storm King Mountain which rises about 1,300 feet over the Hudson River.
“I would say (this mission) was probably the most challenging (he’s been on),” Browning said. “We were looking at close to 50 knot winds at Kennedy Airport when we first got the phone call.”
Emergency Service Unit Medic, Detective Chris Condon was lowered to the cadets trapped below as Browning used night vision goggles in the dark hours, fighting against the relentless wind to steady the chopper.
“Basically I wanted to stop spinning around in circles. Actually I was just thinking what I was going to find, the condition of the cadets. We really didn’t have too much information other than we knew they’ve been out there eight hours,” Condon said.
Detective Fernando Almeida worked the drop line, able to place Condon on a narrow 18-inch ledge. Then the cadets, who had reportedly decided to separate from their group during training, were raised, one at a time, to safety.
They appeared to be in shock.
“They were glad to be on board. I told them they’d be warm soon and they wanted to get home,” said Medical Technician, Detective William Stevens.
Orange County’s Storm King Mountain is nearly 50 miles north of Manhattan, well outside NYPD jurisdiction, but rescuers at the scene decided this elite unit was the cadet’s only hope.
“We train relentlessly, so we do get these calls from time to time and we do go and help our neighbors out. It’s what we do,” said Captain James Coan, Aviation Unit Commander.
They didn’t hesitate when asked if they’d do it again.
The cadets were treated for hypothermia. A spokesperson for West Point said they were still in the hospital in stable condition.