Guardian Air Takes to the Skies to Save Lives
The Grand Canyon National Park offers quite a bit of variety for those interested in a “less touristy” vacation. With the right permits, you can venture out into the wilderness and truly immerse yourself in nature, but always be aware of the risks. With careful forethought and planning, you can minimize your chances of being put in danger, but even when everything is just right, accidents can happen. Luckily, when unfortunate circumstances strike, the Grand Canyon has a team that can respond in time.
Guardian Air is a team of helicopter pilots, medics, and flight nurses based in Tuba City, AZ, half an hour from Flagstaff by helicopter. Since 2012, Junji Sakai, a flight medic for the company, has been working a 48-hour shift every week, responding to emergencies and saving lives across the Grand Canyon area. Never knowing what to expect from each shift, there are many nights where the team will spend 9 hours transporting patients from the canyon to Phoenix. Strangely enough, there are no predictable seasonal trends of injuries – any shift could be busy, but luckily, some shifts require little to no flying at all. “Sometimes it’s busy and we fly two to three long flights per day and sometimes we don’t fly at all,” Junji said in an interview.
While it’s not common for the team to fly to Tusayan or the Grand Canyon South Rim itself, when advanced medical knowledge is required to save a patient, Guardian Air responds. “Grand Canyon has the park service and they have their own helicopter,” Sakai said. “They keep busy, especially in the summer, but they (usually) handle their own. If the patient is either critically injured or ill and ground transport is not appropriate, then we would get called.”
Earlier this year, Guardian Air was called into the Grand Canyon Airport to respond to a 73 year old man named Ron Merle who was suffering from cardiac arrest. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, the name Ron Merle might sound familiar because we recently published a story about this very incident, albeit from another point of view. In our previous article, we talked about the mysterious teenage boy who saved Merle’s life with last-minute CPR, but we didn’t learn who responded to the emergency after this teen’s lifesaving measures.
It was the very same Guardian Air, the team who was able to keep Merle stable and get him the emergency medical care he needed before it was too late. In fact, it was none other than Junji Sakai. Guardian Air later said that Sakai’s actions exceeded the call of duty, a true testament to the dedication and skill of this highly specialized medical team.
Interested in seeing the Grand Canyon from a new point of view? Call or click today to learn more about Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours, descents into the canyon, and more opportunities to turn your next family vacation into an unforgettable and authentic adventure through the great American wilderness. Heading back to the canyon? Contact us to be a part of our Almost Famous program and share your unique Grand Canyon story!