Mercer, the Utah Highway Patrol pilot who was involved in the rescue of a hiker in southern Utah, spoke to the Bountiful Breakfast Exchange Club Thursday, where he told members of the rescue and shared how learning to pay attention to his instincts has helped him through tight spots in his work with the UHP.
Mercer, a Bountiful resident, brought a missing hiker out of a slot canyon in Washington County, landing several times on a pinnacle in rock country before bringing the injured hiker out.
He explained to Exchange Club members the intricacies of landing the helicopter on the rock, a total of 11 times to bring in rescuers and supplies and take them all out again.
On one of those landings, he didn’t land exactly flat. Instead, the helicopter was about 18 inches back from other landings, at about an 8 degree pitch, causing it to shift, when an Emery County Sheriff’s photographer got off the bird.
“It was pretty precarious, Mercer said.
But Mercer said he has always depended on a gut instinct to see him through dangerous situations. He said after hearing a story that fallen law enforcement officers are the guardian angels of the living, he has felt that UHP troopers Thomas Rettberg and Doyle Thorne, both killed while flying UHP helicopters, are looking out for him.
He told of a winter rescue he was on in the Uintas, near the area Thorne crashed. He admits he was nervous, and heading into the snow he couldn’t see any landmarks to follow where he was. But when he looked over his right shoulder he saw one lone tree which he used to get back to the tree line. “He (Thorne) had me spot the tree, and I was able to get down to the meadow from there,” Mercer said.
He said he learned from the book, “The Gift of Fear,” written by Gavin De Becker, to pay attention in dangerous situations and trust his instinct. “I don’t care what you call it, instinct, intuition, that ‘still small voice,’ your guardian angel, but listen to those instincts and believe what you feel.”
Mercer has flown with the Navy, as well as the UHP and has served as a regular trooper.
Through the years, he has been involved in numerous rescues, some high profile, like the rescue of hiker Aaron Ralston who, in 2003, cut off his own arm after five days of being pinned beneath a rock in an area near Moab.
Mercer told Exchange Club members that it’s not necessarily wrong to go out hiking by yourself, but those who do should let someone know where they are going and inform that person if there’s a change in the route.