MCCALL, Idaho — A firefighter climbed up a tree Monday night to rescue a pilot who was trapped 60 feet up after crashing his small airplane into the treetop.
According to McCall Fire, 79-year-old John Gregory of McCall dialed 911 just before 9 p.m., telling operators his Piper Cub PA-18 aircraft had crashed and was hung up in the trees.
GPS data indicated that the plane was in the area of Poorman Creek, located a few miles outside of McCall up Boulder Lake Road. McCall firefighters and EMS headed out to the area on snowmobiles, equipped with rope rescue and tree climbing gear, to find the bright orange plane sitting on top of a tree.
The rescue crews were able to verbally communicate to the pilot trapped inside.
An air ambulance from Boise and Two Bear Air Rescue from Montana had initially been called in to help, but crews became concerned the helicopter rotor wash would dislodge the plane from its precarious position, so the Life Flight was held on standby at the local airport.
According to McCall Fire, firefighter Randy Acker and McCall Fire Captain Brandon Swain came up with a plan. Acker, who owns a hazardous tree removal business in McCall, said he was comfortable trying to climb up the tree to reach Gregory.
Acker made his way up the tree, limbing it as he went. Once he reached the top, he used webbing to secure the plane to the tree, then helped the pilot put on a safety harness.
Gregory was then belayed down to safety.
According to McCall Fire, Acker downplayed his role in the unusual rescue.
"He stated that the airplane felt remarkably stable in the tree and said that it felt like another day at work, climbing and limbing a tree," officials said in the release.
The Valley County Sheriff's Office has asked people to stay away from the crash site until the plane can be removed from the tree.
“People are highly encouraged to stay away from this crash. A simple gust of wind could bring this plane crashing down. We do not want to see anyone get hurt by going to see the plane,” Sheriff Patti Bolen said in a release.
“We are thankful the pilot was not injured in this crash," Bolen continued. "We also want to thank the McCall Fire Department for their assistance in this challenging recovery of Mr. Gregory,” said Capt. Jason Speer.