Injured Woman Rescued From Cliff

By Jill Jones
Pinal County Today

Superstition Search and Rescue (SSAR) assisted in rescuing Lisa Alexander, 34, of Chandler from the face of a cliff north of Superior where Ms. Alexander and some friends were rock climbing and rapelling on Sunday, November 22, 2009.

SSAR was asked to assist PCSO and Superior Fire with the intricate technical rescue just north of the Superior tunnel in a location known as “the ponds.” This particular area is popular with hikers and rapellers and is known for the waterfalls that appear in times of heavy rain.

Ms. Alexander had reportedly shattered her knee cap while climbing, and according to SSAR Commander Robert Cooper “was in extreme pain.” Superior Fire moved her to a safe location on some cliffs in order to treat her injuries and then looked to SSAR to assist in transporting her off the cliff. While SSAR would normally employ a technical rope rescue; they chose not to in this particular situation due to the possibility of falling rocks, which could cause a hazard to cars on the road below and thereby necessitate closing down U.S. 60 for approximately two hours.

It was determined that a “short haul” helicopter rescue was called for, which required the assistance of DPS Rangers. In a short haul rescue, a trained rescuer accompanies the patient who is loaded into a nylon bag that is attached to a 100 to 200 foot rope. Then, both the patient and rescuer are attached to the helicopter and ride beneath the chopper to a safe area in which they can be put down.

Ms. Alexander was lifted off the cliff and flown to the safety of the Oak Flats campgrounds where an ambulance then took her to an area hospital.

“SSAR trains regularly in this highly critical skill,” explains Cooper, who added, “DPS maintains currency with 40 rescuers throughout the state for quick response and SSAR has the honor to hold eight of these positions.”

“We received an update on Lisa and her knee,” said Cooper. “It did shatter and they were only able to put back together 2/3rds of it. Ouch!”

Ms. Alexander will most likely be including her rescuers in noting what she is thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Superstition Search and Rescue (SSAR) is a volunteer service organization affiliated with, but not funded by, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office that assists individuals who experience wilderness-related problems in the Superstition Wilderness Area. SSAR is made up of approximately 25 volunteers who are highly skilled in wilderness first-aid, technical rescue, orienteering and tracking who sacrifice their time and personal resources to assist those in need.

SSAR relies on donations from individuals and/or corporations and fund-raising activities to support the training and equipment needed to continue serving individuals who find themselves in a situation in which they require assistance. All donations are tax deductible and no matter what the amount, provide the group with valuable equipment and resources necessary to do their job – saving lives.

If you would like to donate to the unsung heroes of Superstition Search and Rescue, please send a check or money order payable to SSAR, P.O. Box 1123, Apache Junction, AZ 85217. For more information on SSAR or to make on online donation visit SSAR at