MCSO rescues 18 drug smugglers that were lost in desert

Posted: Jun 07, 2013 4:54 PM PDT <em class="wnDate">Friday, June 7, 2013 7:54 PM EST</em>Updated: Jun 07, 2013 9:47 PM PDT <em class="wnDate">Saturday, June 8, 2013 12:47 AM EST</em> By FOX 10 News - Staff Report

GILA BEND, Ariz. - As the temperatures begin to rise, so do the amount of rescue calls, especially for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office chopper. And many of these calls come from folks running into trouble as they cross the border.
Friday night, MCSO searched in the Gila Bend area for 21 individuals after a Spanish-speaking male called 911 asking for help. He said he was part of a group of 21 people that had split up into a group of 14 and a group of 7. He said they been lost for five days, and were without water the last 3 days.
The man admitted they were transporting 700 pounds of marijuana and had left it somewhere in the desert, and would turn it over once rescued.
"It takes manpower. What do you do? Forget it? I don't think that's right, we should do whatever to save lives no matter who they are... We have our search and rescue out there and Jeep posse. Tonight we are going to work through the night to rescue these people," said Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
By 7 p.m. Friday, 5 people were found. By 9 p.m., Border Patrol located 13 people. Based on information from the group, the sheriff's office believes they found all the people who were lost. The investigation into the abandoned marijuana continues.
MCSO says this happens a lot this time of year. Earlier this week, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office responded to a number of calls.
"About 80 percent of our job with the helicopter is search and rescue," says Sgt. Wes Kuefer, one of MCSO's chopper pilots. "They start up from Mexico. They try and get across the desert, but this kind of temperature, 100 plus degree days, they get out there. They're usually traveling with very little water if any, and if you can't get in there in time that's when the helicopter comes in."
Earlier this week, a group of six individuals called 911 for help. The men were walking through the desert after they were abandoned by their guide after crossing into the U.S. from Sonora, Mexico.
911 operator: "Hola le que puede ayudar?"
Caller: "Es que tenemos algunos muchachos muy mal."
Translated from Spanish, the caller told the operator they had been drinking water from cacti to survive, and that they've been out there for 10 days.
The chopper was not used in this particular instance, but the pilots are on standby to respond to these types of calls.
"That's our job. Search and rescue and to protect and to serve, so when we get the call we don't judge who it is, we just get down there and get the job done."