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First drone-assisted rescue in Southside a high-flying success

Man rescued from banks of Dan River Tuesday

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. – New drone training for some Southside first responders is proving valuable.

The Danville Life Saving Crew and the Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office just had their first chance to use the training in a real rescue.

As members of the Danville Life Saving Crew and Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office headed to the Dan River Tuesday to rescue a logger pinned down after a tree fell on one of his hands, they were already preparing to use their drones.

Danville Life Saving Crew assistant director Bryan Fox says that helped reduce the stress of the situation.

"We were developing a plan, talking on the radio on the way out. We knew what we were going to do; how many drones we were going to use," Fox explained.

Fox says the training he and others went through last month to become certified drone operators perfectly prepared them for the rescue.

Once everyone was on scene, the drones were deployed in a matter of minutes and they immediately began making the rescue safer.

"We were able to navigate the boats around some circumstances in the water, some debris, rock formations, that (the rescuers) didn't see from the boat as they were trying to navigate," Fox said.

Jim Mullins is a swift water rescuer member for the Danville Life Saving Crew and was in one of the boats.

"Bryan put his drone in the air...He went down, initially, to make sure there were no hazards that we had to know about," Mullins said.

Mullins says the drones also came in handy at the end of the rescue as the pinned down man was brought back across the river to be taken to a hospital.

"The drone could be put up, watch, make sure there was no incident in bringing him up," Mullins said.

WSLS did reach out to the Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office Wednesday for an interview, but did not get a response.