Helicopter rescues child, 2 adults stranded on He Mni Can in Red Wing

Red Wing helicopter rescue

Red Wing helicopter rescue

An Easter Sunday hike for a couple and their 3-year-old turned into a dramatic rescue situation in Red Wing.

Fire officials say three people, including a child, had to be airlifted from He Mni Can on Sunday after snow, ice and mud trapped them on top of the slope.

The Red Wing Fire Department responded to the call at He Mni Can-Barn Bluff Regional Park at around 1:48 p.m. and got to the scene within three minutes, but it took 40 minutes for firefighters to climb up and reach the stranded hikers. The fire department said conditions on the bluff “were extremely poor.”

A helicopter with the Minnesota Air Rescue Team scooped the hikers from He Mni Can and dropped them off at Colvill Park nearby. Officials say no one was hurt.

“It was great they weren’t hurt, it was just a hairy spot where they couldn’t move in or out, that’s what we were there for,” Luke Swoboda, a St. Paul firefighter who was part of the air rescue team, said.

Rescuers like Swoboda and his partner, Michael Heesch, were on a 100-foot rope underneath a chopper. The two rescuers were then lowered onto the ground to help the family.

“It was kind of like a ski jump. … They kind of got themselves in where they couldn’t go forward and they couldn’t go back,” Swoboda added.

“Red Wing Fire had them calm, talked through the scenario with them, they had a good idea of what was going to happen, that was great on their part,” Heesch said.

The rescuers say it was also fortunate that they recently trained in the area and knew what to expect.

“Luckily, we had just trained in that spot last summer with Red Wing Fire,” Chief Warrant Officer Jim Englin, a State Patrol pilot who flew the chopper Sunday, said.

However, Englin noted the rescue team did face something they had yet to encounter on a mission.

“We’ve never had a rescue situation where we’ve had a minor child, which kind of threw us for a loop, but we discussed through those processes,” Englin said.

Authorities say the decision was made to keep the child secured with his mother as they were hoisted off the trail for a three-minute flight to safety, along with Heesch.

“Letting them know we’re almost there, you’re doing great, keeping them calm as much as I could,” Heesch described.

In its news release, the fire department reminded the community to be careful when hiking in the area.

“Conditions may change or be unsuitable at certain times of the year,” the release stated.

Two members of the Minnesota Air Rescue Team help a family in Red Wing on April 9, 2023. (Courtesy: Denise Morcomb)