Rescue teams from the Las Cruces Fire Department (LCFD), Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue (MVSAR) and New Mexico State Police (NMSP) helped three hikers who became stranded during a hail and lightning storm Monday, July 20, in the Organ Mountains.
New Mexico State Police was first alerted to the three young men who were hiking and rappeling Monday in the Organ Mountains. At some point, the hikers became exhausted from the afternoon heat and then became stranded on a rock ledge during an early-evening hailstorm. The hikers used a cell phone to call NMSP for help.
New Mexico State Police contacted the Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue Team which, about 10:30 p.m. Monday, contacted the Las Cruces Fire Department’s Technical Rescue Team for assistance in locating the three hikers. Rescue teams obtained GPS coordinates from a cell phone the hikers were using and further narrowed their search by following a light the hikers flashed once an hour.
About 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 21, rescue teams made verbal contact with the hikers who were located about one-half mile above the abandoned Modoc Mine. The rescue teams were unable to immediately reach the hikers because of the mountainous terrain. One of the rescue teams, consisting of three firefighters and three MVSAR members, ultimately rappeled down to the hikers and made contact with them shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday at an elevation of 7,876 feet. All three hikers displayed signs of fatigue. One of the men, a 21-year-old, had extreme signs of dehydration and nausea, and was unable to walk on his own. Firefighters started the man on an IV and determined that a night-time extraction would be too risky.
New Mexico State Police and National Guard helicopters with hoist capabilities were unavailable at the time, and the rock ledge location of the hikers would make such an extraction difficult, so the team spent the rest of the morning with the hikers in the Organ Mountains. About 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, with the improved health of the 21-year-old hiker who received three liters of fluid intravenously, the rescue team began the extraction and made it to the staging area by about 8 a.m. The three hikers did not require further medical attention.
LCFD’s Technical Rescue Unit was comprised of seven firefighters split into two teams. The Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue Team has 32 active members and has been serving since 1994. Through the years, LCFD and MVSAR have worked together on several technical rescue missions in the Organ Mountains.