Colonie paramedics earn kudos for daring rescue

New York State Police commended Colonie paramedics for their involvement in the July helicopter rescue of a 12-year-old hiker in Greene County.

Among those honored were Colonie Emergency Medical Services Department Chief John Politis, 54, and paramedics Frankie Rodriguez, 37, and Shawn Powers, 26.

Colonie paramedics work in conjunction with state police to provide medical evacuation services to the area.

On Sunday, July 29, the three were activated as part of the medical evacuation Life Guard Program team to take part in the rescue.

"Sunday afternoon in July, we were requested to go to Tannersville to Kaaterskill Falls to be include in the rescue of a 12-year-old who fell about 60 feet and was critically injured," said Politis.

The falls, located within the Catskill State Park, is a terraced waterfall stretching 150 to 200 feet, with a nearly 200-foot drop, Politis said. The area is not unfamiliar to rescuers, who regularly make stops there, but this particular rescue was not typical.

Towering walls surround the falls and make for a narrow and treacherous entry from the top by foot, but hovering a helicopter overhead while lowering a paramedic is just as dangerous, said Politis.

Rodriguez was tapped to be the one lowered through the canyon walls to rescue the victim. Gradually, Politis lowered Rodriguez with a winch until he could reach the victim and begin administering first aid. He worked with Greene County paramedics who had entered the canyons from below.

Rodriguez, of Amsterdam, said it was his most daring rescue to date.

"The gravity of the situation was great. We had two calls (to the same falls) in two weeks," said Rodriguez. One made out better than the other."

Information on the 12-year-old's recovery since the accident is unavailable, but his injuries were severe, Politis said. The head injury was so serious, the boy had to be ventilated as he was lifted up to the hovering helicopter. Politis said he hasn't heard of that being done before.

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