Las Vegas search pilot needs his own rescue
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Longtime volunteer search-and-rescue pilot David Waugh never thought he’d be the one needing help.
But that’s what happened for the 83-year-old Las Vegas hunter when a 50-person search team found him on the fringe of Nevada’s rugged Wilson Creek Range in Lincoln County.
Waugh told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he was hunting Dec. 9 with two friends near Reed Cabin Summit when the men split up, hoping to find elk.
Waugh took his rifle, but left his water and food supply behind, certain he would be back in his vehicle within the hour.
“I figured I’d walk a little bit and come right back,” he said.
But a leg cramp sent him tumbling to the ground, and his calls for help went unheard.
When Waugh set out again, he went the wrong way.
He found cougar paw tracks on the ground and fired his rifle periodically. No one heard him.
As night fell, he tried without success to start a fire. He made a bed of cedar boughs, ate snow to stay hydrated, and looked at the stars.
“They were so beautiful and appeared so close, I thought I could reach up and touch them,” he said.
His friends, meanwhile, contacted local law enforcement and started a rescue mission.
Civil Air Patrol police and rescue officials searched by ground and air the next morning until a pilot spotted Waugh’s orange jacket and directed a state forestry crew to the spot.
The crew cleared an area for the helicopter to lower a sling, and Waugh was taken to a hospital for treatment of dehydration and hypothermia.
Waugh told the Review-Journal he was grateful for the rescue, and said others could learn from his mistake.
“Whether you wander off or just go out into the back roads, let people know where you’re going,” he said. “Take a backpack with matches and water and Granola bars. You never know what can happen.”