On Saturday at 11 a.m., a woman in her 60s fell while hiking on the Billy Goat Trail at the C&O Canal on the Potomac River.
Her elbow and ankle injuries were not serious, but because rescue workers had limited access to her location, a Park Police Eagle Helicopter was dispatched to airlift her from the trail.
"The helicopter hoisted her and transported her to Suburban Hospital," said Capt. Oscar Garcia of the Fire & Rescue Service. "The injuries were minor but did require treatment at a hospital, and the fastest way to extract her from the situation was via helicopter."
The accident occurred near Mile Marker 2. The Montgomery County Fire & Rescue team initially responded, and members of the Cabin John Volunteer Fire Department and the Fairfax Fire Department were also on hand to assist.
Television news that night showed the woman swinging from the helicopter as she was airlifted from the site.
"I'm sure it was something different that she hadn't experienced," said Garcia. "At the same time, the rescuers explained to her as much as possible what to expect, that it would be noisy and a lot of wind, and reassured her that they were tying her in and fastening her tight."
Rescue leaders offered safety advice for hiking on the Billy Goat Trail.
"In general people need to be aware that … there are sections that aren't really a trail where you actually have to climb over rocks — that's why it's called the Billy Goat Trail," said Lt. Peter Cacopardo of the Cabin John Volunteer Fire Department. "I think people underestimate it and that's why they slip and fall. They think it's going to be a foot path and it's not."
"Never go hiking by yourself in case there is an injury or medical emergency," said Garcia. "Also have a method of communication, like a cell phone, and tell family members" when they should expect you back.
"Also, know exactly where you're at," Garcia continued. "In this case she was good at letting us know she was on the Billy Goat Trail near Mile Marker 2. She was very aware of her location."