Daring rescue of Mason County deputies near High Steel Bridge

VIDEO: Daring rescue of Mason County deputies near High Steel Bridge

MASON COUNTY, Wash. — A daring rescue saves two Mason County sheriff’s deputies who were involved in a recovery mission on the Skokomish River.

The rescue happened Thursday near the High Steel Bridge, which is one of the tallest and most dangerous bridges in the state.

“It’s become popular on the internet. It’s become a popular place to go up to visit, and, unfortunately, it’s also a popular place for people to try to end their lives, so we end up going up there multiple times a year and it’s a very, very dangerous place,” said Chief Deputy Ryan Spurling, Mason County Sheriff’s Office.

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The terrain around the canyon is treacherous.

Spurling said the men were on in a pre-planned recovery mission, looking for people who’d fallen into the river over the years.

“They scoured the river and we did locate remains of two of the people that were outstanding missing, so we’ll be able to, after we do some identification process, we’ll hopefully be able to bring some closure to those families,” he said.

On the way back up the canyon, a large rock came loose and hit one of the deputies directly in the face. The impact knocked him unconscious and broke five bones in his jaw, cheek and near his eyes.

“They wear helmets for high angle rescue and everything and, from what I saw, it didn’t even appear his helmet was scratched up. It hit him directly in the face,” said Spurling.

Spurling said the man’s fellow deputy likely saved his life. He grabbed him and the two tumbled 20 to 30 feet down the cliff side together.

They needed help, so Naval Air Station Whidbey Island sent their rescue crew. With incredible precision, they hovered their helicopter above the deputies, dropped down the basket stretcher and got the men to safety.

“There’s not a lot of people that survive when they go down in that area, so it was a pretty treacherous rescue and I think the military is one of the few that could do it the way they did,” said Spurling.

Both men have been treated and released from the hospital and are recovering at home.