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Las Vegas Cop Killed Rescuing Hiker From Ledge Via Helicopter

Image: Las Vegas Cop Killed Rescuing Hiker From Ledge Via Helicopter

By Ken Mandel   |   Wednesday, 24 Jul 2013 12:48 PM

A Las Vegas police officer who spent the last six years in the department's rescue division was killed when he fell from a rock ledge while rescuing a stranded hiker from the same spot.

Officer David Vanbuskirk, 36, saved the life of the unidentified hiker from a prohibited area on Mount Charleston, the highest of southern Nevada's Spring Mountains and the state's eighth highest mountain peak, The Associated Press reported.

Rescuers responded shortly before 9 p.m. to reports that a hiker was disoriented and stranded on a rocky ledge just above Mary Jane Falls. The area was marked with signs warning hikers to stay out or face fines, according to Jay Nichols, spokesman for Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

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Vanbuskirk had lowered himself to the hiker on a helicopter harness, and secured him to the rescue gear. As the hiker was hoisted to safety, Vanbuskirk's equipment malfunctioned, and he fatally plunged into a canyon.

Vanbuskirk died on impact, authorities told CNN, and rescuers later retrieved his body.

The hiker was safely rescued and is being interviewed, police said.

"This officer dedicated his life to saving people and that act ultimately cost him his own life," Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie told CNN affiliate KVVU.

Nicknamed "Rambo Dave" for his love of outdoors and the martial arts, Vanbuskirk was a 13-year veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the first to die on duty since 2009, according to CNN. He had spent the past six years with the rescue division.

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Gillespie said Vanbuskirk had performed "dozens" of rescues like the one that killed him Monday. Las Vegas rescue workers have completed 130 helicopter rescues in the past 12 months.

"David was one of the most sincere people, and I just can't believe it," friend Michael Connolly told KTNV.

No information was released about the hiker.

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