Virginia Helicopter Crew Honored for Winter Search and Rescue Mission

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey talks with members of the Fairfax County chopper crew that found two boys lost in Spotsylvania County woods on a frigid day in January. (Published Monday, Jul 22, 2013)

    A Fairfax County helicopter crew that helped rescue two boys lost in woods on a frigid day in January was honored Saturday.

    With just minutes of daylight left, and running low on fuel, the three men aboard Fairfax One spotted clues to the kids and led a ground team to save the boys.

    On the snowy afternoon of Jan. 25, the crew hovered over deep woods in Spotsylvania County, searching for 5- and 10-year-old brothers, who wandered off with their dog in temperatures in the low 20s.

    Tim Schilling, a father of four, manned the chopper's camera.

    “I think we all said it,” he said. “This is like a needle in the haystack. This is the real deal.”

    Master Police Officer Paul Dehaven did most of the communicating that afternoon and he made this promise: “If we find them, I'm buying steak dinners for the crew.”

    They could see deputies in search parties below.

    Their hopes lifted when they spotted a running dog, but it didn’t match the description of the small terrier the boys were with.

    After 45 minutes of searching, they faced a tough decision, as they were running out of fuel and daylight.

    “The weather was deteriorating and we weren’t really sure if we’d be able to refuel and come back, so this was kind of like our last chance,” Dehaven said.

    But the infrared camera picked up a heat spot, and the boys were found under a log.

    Fairfax One directed ground searchers to the boys and the group made its way out.

    That rescue won Schilling, Dehaven and pilot Garrett Wymer a national Air Crew of the Year award, which they also received three years ago, but their real reward came in the sky that day.