At What Risk?

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Smith said the nighttime toe-in maneuver was too risky. "I would not have allowed our pilots to do that mission," he said. Korhdt heard about the missing kids on the 11 p.m. TV news and called Gunsauls, who met him at the airport. Their Bell 407 helicopter has both night-vision equipment and forward looking infrared equipment (the sheriff's choppers have neither). They first found the searchers and then "just followed the natural lay of the land" trying to put themselves in the children's place in terms of choosing a route. They spotted the pair glowing brightly in their night-vision goggles against the dull background of the hillside and went to work. Pete Cunha, a local California Highway Patrol pilot contacted by the newspaper, also said rescuers should have left the task to experts. "It's not a game for amateurs," said Cunha. CHP has a couple of night-capable Eurocopter 305s but won't fly them in rough terrain at night. He said the authorities have to keep control of these types of operations (even if they can't or won't participate in them). "If we allowed this kind of thing to continue, for instance, could you imagine the onslaught of good-minded people wanting to become involved in uncontrolled situations?" he said, likening the incident to volunteers with hunting rifles showing up at a police standoff wanting to help. "We simply could not have that."