Don Beatty’s aircraft became tangled in power lines, and he hung upside down, 80 feet in the air, for three hours before Staff Sgt. Paul Nowak, Malmstrom Fire Department crew chief, freed him
MALMSTROM AFB, Mont. – Staff Sgts. Paul Nowak and Tim Guzman, Malmstrom Fire Department, practice high-angle rescue techniques at the fire department training area. High angle rescue is used to rescue victims from locations unreachable by standard fire department equipment, utilizing rope and rope accessories. (Photo by Senior Airman John Parie)
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MALMSTROM AFB, Mont. – Team Malmstrom’s Fire Department responded to a request from local emergency response agencies to assist with an ultralight aircraft crash Aug. 20.
Don Beatty’s aircraft became tangled in power lines, and he hung upside down, 80 feet in the air, for three hours before Staff Sgt. Paul Nowak, Malmstrom Fire Department crew chief, freed him.
“A group effort between all the local crews helped to get the job done as quickly as possible,” said Daniel Dodson, Malmstrom deputy fire chief.
“Once we realized Great Falls Search and Rescue’s truck ladder would not be able to reach Mr. Beatty, we started discussing our options,” Sergeant Nowak said.
Great Falls called Malmstrom because the base’s fire department is high-angle certified, which was necessary for this rescue.
“I think it is great to work in a community that works well together and has no problem supporting each other,” Mr. Dodson said.
The rescue team waited for a crane to arrive, and Western Area Power Administration workers turned off power to the lines. Then Sergeant Nowak loaded his gear into the crane bucket and proceeded up towards Mr. Beatty.
“I was the third person that night to go up and see him; two other guys had gone up to check on his condition,” Sergeant Nowak said. “When I got up there he said, ‘Will you please get me down from this place.’ I told him that’s what I planned on doing.”
The way Mr. Beatty’s aircraft was tangled, Malmstrom firefighters were concerned that once Sergeant Nowak released him from the power lines, the ultralight might shoot up into the air and hit the rescue team.
“I first ensured my safety line was attached, then I rigged up a safety line to hook Mr. Beatty to the crane bucket using the harness he was wearing,” said Sergeant Nowak.
“My concern was that if something did happen when I released him from the aircraft, he would fall to the ground. So I had the crane operator place me directly underneath Mr. Beatty and start raising me up until he was part of the way into the bucket.”
Once he was halfway into the bucket, Sergeant Nowak released Mr. Beatty’s harness, and he fell the rest of the way into the bucket. Following the rescue, Mr. Beatty was up and about at the scene.
A group effort between Great Falls emergency response agencies paired with Malmstrom’s high-angle rescue training ensured Mr. Beatty’s safe retrieval from the power lines.
“This was the first time I was able to use my high-angle training in a real world incident,” said Sergeant Nowak. “We train everyday and practice all of our skills so that if the need does arise we are able to perform them without a problem.”