helicopter lady


Helicopter rescue gone awry turns into a hilarious Twitter meme

The tragic gaffe brought the internet together.


Stacey Ritzen

Internet Culture

Posted on Jun 5, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 11:12 am CDT

Tragedy was narrowly averted this week when a 74-year-old woman hiking at Piestewa Peak in Phoenix slipped and fell—injuring her head and face. Rescuers were able to get to the woman in time, airlifting her off into a stretcher hoisted onto a helicopter. But unfortunately, the rescue basket began spinning out of control.

On one hand, this all sounds very scary and sad for the poor woman at the center of this mishap. On the other hand, allow us to present you with the video footage of this rescue gone awry.

Lest anyone feel like a terrible person for laughing, there are two things we’d like to point out.

For one thing, she’s just fine. Phoenix Fire Department officials said the woman was treated for dizziness and nausea but otherwise suffered no further injuries as a result of the spinning.

The second thing is that you certainly wouldn’t be alone because as the video began spreading like wildfire late Tuesday, people on Twitter began retweeting the video and the jokes were coming in hard and fast.

A couple of people also had the same idea about the woman’s wherewithal to survive the wild ride:

“[S]end her to space,” animator and voice actor Mick Lauer wrote. “She’s more ready and capable than most humans.”

The rescue was a bit of an anomaly. Paul Apolinar, the chief pilot of the police department’s aviation unit, told ABC 15 News that a second line to prevent exactly this scenario from happening broke, causing the stretcher to spin out of control. As a result, the closer the basket got to the rotors only accelerated the rate of rotation.

The crew reportedly attempted to raise and lower the basket several times, but the spinning went on for about 40 seconds.

“[The potential for the basket to spin] is something that’s a known phenomenon in the hoist rescue industry,” he continued. “In the last six years, we’ve used a hoist 210 times on mountain rescues. In that time, we know of [a similar situation] happening twice.”

It’s unclear when the other isolated incident happened or if that person was OK, but on the bright side, this poor woman’s terror brought the internet together—if for just a brief, shining moment.


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*First Published: Jun 5, 2019, 11:13 am CDT