Officer killed during rescue of hiker NW of Vegas

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Associated Press

Posted on July 23, 2013 at 8:03 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 23 at 12:33 PM

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Authorities say a Las Vegas police officer fell to his death while rescuing a hiker who was stranded in a forbidden area of the mountains northwest of the city.

Police offered new details Tuesday on the fall that killed 36-year-old search and rescue officer David Vanbuskirk Monday night on Mount Charleston.

Officials say Vanbuskirk had attached a harness to the hiker who was stuck on a ledge near Mary Jane Falls and had signaled the helicopter above to hoist them both up when he fell.

It wasn't clear exactly how far he fell.

Vanbuskirk is the first Las Vegas police officer to die on duty since 2009.

Police say he was raised in the Vegas area and was married.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other agencies are investigating.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A Las Vegas police officer who was trying to rescue a stranded hiker on a mountain northwest of the city died after falling from a cliff Monday night.

Las Vegas police assistant sheriff Joseph Lombardo said the area — which was just above Mary Jane Falls in Mt. Charleston — was too difficult to access by foot, so rescuers used a helicopter to hoist the hiker to safety.

Search and rescue officer David Vanbuskirk, 36, of Henderson, became separated from the hiker at some point during the rescue and fell from a cliff.

Lombardo didn't say how far the officer fell. Vanbuskirk had been with the department since October 1999, officer Bill Cassell said.

KLAS-TV reported the hiker reached the helicopter and was not injured.

TV cameras captured a procession of police cars driving through the dark with their lights on after the accident in a gesture of respect for the fallen officer.

"We're a big family, a close family, and this is going to be trying on us for quite a while," Lombardo told media. "We will survive it. We'll come back together, and hopefully in my lifetime, it will never happen again."

The National Transportation Safety Board, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the police department will investigate.

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