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Lost in love: Military aircraft help rescue newly engaged hikers at White Sands National Monument

Post by Jeff Mayor / The News Tribune on Jan. 12, 2012 at 11:25 am |
January 12, 2012 3:38 pm

Have you ever loved somebody so much you feel lost without them?

A couple from Oklahoma found themselves lost even with each other Monday moments after becoming engaged.

Russell Vandameer proposed to Karen Renshaw during a trip to White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, according to a statement released by the National Park Serivce.

Vandameer picked a nice romantic area for the proposal then soon realized they were lost.  They tried to walk back to the car then called a cousin by cell phone to request help.

Army helicopters and Air Force drones were used during an interagency search for the couple who were hiking with their dogs, Stitch, Suzy and Griswald.

The NPS, Alamo West Fire and Rescue Department were also involved in the search.

“While two Army Rescue Blackhawk helicopters were en route from Fort Bliss, approximately an hour away, Holloman Air Force base diverted an F-22 Raptor from a training mission to the search effort,” the NPS report reads. “The pilot of the Raptor was able to positively identify the couple with their three dogs. Two Air Force drones were also tasked which were able to relay specific coordinates and monitor the lost hiker’s location and movement from the air while the Army helicopters were en route.”

The helicopters transporters the hikers and their dogs were transported out of the dunes. The were examined for exposure to below-freezing nighttime temperatures.

The report ended with this important detail: “Renshaw accepted Vandemeer’s marriage proposal.”

They invited the Blackhawk crew to the wedding.

 

Here is the full statement from the NPS:

On the afternoon of Jan. 9, the park learned that two visitors who had been hiking within the dunes since noon were lost and unable to find their way out.

Russell Vandameer and Karen Renshaw, both of Oklahoma, left to go hiking with their three dogs, Stitch, Suzy, and Griswald. After finding a suitably beautiful spot within the dunes, Vandemeer proposed to Renshaw. The newly engaged couple than attempted to hike back to their car, but were unable to find their way back. Rather than continue to wander becoming more lost, they contacted a cousin via cell phone and requested that help be sent.

An interagency effort was begun that involved the National Park Service, the Alamo West Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Army.

While two Army Rescue Blackhawk helicopters were en route from Fort Bliss, approximately an hour away, Holloman Air Force base diverted an F-22 Raptor from a training mission to the search effort. The pilot of the Raptor was able to positively identify the couple with their three dogs. Two Air Force drones were also tasked, which were able to relay specific coordinates and monitor the lost hiker’s location and movement from the air while the Army helicopters were en route.

The hikers and their dogs were transported by the Army Blackhawks out of the dunes to the command post, where they were examined by NPS and Alamo West EMS for exposure to the below freezing nighttime temperatures. Renshaw accepted Vandemeer’s marriage proposal. The newly engaged couple invited the Blackhawk crew to the wedding.

The search effort was greatly aided by the assistance of the military aircraft, which utilized night vision and infrared equipment to safely locate the hikers after nightfall.

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