Flags in Las Vegas were flown at half staff to honor Officer David Vanbuskirk, who died in a plunge from a helicopter cable while on a rescue mission in a hiking area west of the city.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department responded to a call Monday night just before 9 p.m. from a disoriented male who had become stranded on a rock ledge. After a Metro Search and Rescue helicopter located the victim just over an hour later, the decision was made to use the aircraft's internal rescue hoist. Vanbuskirk was lowered to the victim so that the helicopter could lift both of them back into the aircraft.
According to a LVMPD press release, Vanbuskirk "somehow became detached from the hoist line, falling into the canyon below." The distance that the man fell is under investigation, but Sheriff Doug Gillespie later stated in a press conference that "it is clear that this was a non-survivable fall and he died on impact." The victim was able to remain on the cable and was safely lifted onto the aircraft.
"There is no greater purpose than living a life of service to others," Gillespie said. "This officer dedicated his life to saving people, that act ultimately cost him his own life… Today is a tough day at the Metropolitan Police Department." According to the Associated Press, the LVMPD has not lost one of their own since 2009. Department members wore shrouded badges as a gesture of respect.
The Las Vegas community has taken to the LVMPD Facebook page to pay tribute and remember Officer Vanbuskirk, 36, as a "brave man" and a "hero." There is also a Facebook page dedicated to honoring him and paying respects.
"He was an unbelievable person. He was small in height, but he was big in personality and heart," the officer's friend Michael Connolly told ABC affiliate KTNV,
LVMPD Search and Rescue wrote in a recent blog post, "Dave was an extraordinary individual who was well-respected by his colleagues. He was a leader, a friend, and played an integral role in our SAR family. It is an understatement to say that he will be greatly missed."
Vanbuskirk was born and raised in the Las Vegas area and has been employed by LVMPD since 1999. He is survived by his wife and family.