Massachusetts State Police Release — 01042017 — State Police Air Wing, Lowell Firefighters and Police, Rescue Man from Merrimack River
A joint effort by Lowell firefighters and police officers, culminating in a daring rescue by a State Police Air Wing helicopter crew, saved the life of a man who was located in the Merrimack River Wednesday night.
Shortly after 7 PM the Lowell Fire Department and Lowell Police Department responded to reports of a person screaming in the Merrimack River near the Aiken Street Bridge. Trinity Ambulance personnel and UMass-Lowell Police also responded and assisted.
Firefighters located an emotionally distraught male standing on rocks in waist-deep icy water. With the assistance of police officers, firefighters launched two boats to rescue the man. The boats’ propellers, however, became damaged on ice and the vessels became disabled.
Lowell officials requested that State Police Air Wing respond from its Lawrence air base. MSP Air 4, a helicopter piloted by Trooper John Hazelrigg and carrying Tactical Flight Officer Russ Phippen, responded. The Troopers observed that the man had slipped into water that was now neck high and that he was becoming immobile and likely hypothermic.
Cognizant that the rescue boats were not able to reach the man, the Troopers flew to nearby LeLacheur Park and landed. There, Trooper Phippen changed his position in the helicopter from the starboard front seat to a rear seat. Air 4 then flew back to the man in the river.
Trooper Hazelrigg maneuvered for several minutes to get the helicopter into position for a rescue, ultimately getting it so close enough to the victim that the aircraft’s skids were in the water. Trooper Phippen opened the door and, strapped in, hung outside the helicopter and grabbed the hypothermic victim, who was not moving on his own.
Trooper Phippen pulled the man inside the helicopter. The crew then flew the victim directly to Lowell General Hospital, landing at the hospital’s heliport. Because the door had frozen in the open position, the flight to the hospital was undertaken with the door open.
The victim received emergency care and is expected to survive.
State Police Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin applauded the heroic work of Troopers Hazelrigg and Phippen and expressed gratitude to Lowell Fire and Police, and all other responders, for their assistance.
A photo of Air 4 on the Lowell General landing pad is included. In the photo, Sgt Brandon Arekalian and Troopers Hazelrigg and Phippen are checking the aircraft for damage after the victim was transported.
Go to our YouTube channel to view a video, taken from the shore by a Lowell Police Detective, by clicking here.