On April 6, 2016 at 5:45 p.m. California Highway Patrol Helicopter 20 (H-20) was requested for a Search and Rescue (SAR) of a horse and rider by the Grass Valley CalFire Dispatch Center. The search area was on the American River down river from the No Hands Bridge. H-20 responded from the Auburn Airport and arrived on scene within 4 minutes. They began their search from the American River Confluence and flew down river. They called the reporting person using the satellite phone and were directed to their location.
The reporting person, Chris Mitchell, was the husband of the rider, Debbie Mitchell. He related that he and his wife were riding their horses on the trail along the river. The trail began to crumble, so they decided to turn back. He turned his horse around which spooked her horse, Blue. Blue lost his footing and rolled down the steep terrain. His wife managed to jump free from her horse as he went over the side. They climbed down to Blue to check his status. They were eventually able to cut some brush around the horse and get him to stand. They were unable to get Blue out of this steep area, so Mr. Mitchell climbed back up, rode to where he had a cell signal and called for help.
H-20 found the Mitchell’s and their horses then relayed their coordinates to the CalFire Incident Commander. The CalFire crew had to hike approximately 1.5 miles to the scene and prepare a plan for extracting Blue. Once everyone was on scene, H-20 cleared the area so as not to spook the horse during the extraction. It took several hours to complete the rescue.