May 17, 2018, 12:36 PM ET

2 stranded hikers, incapacitated dog rescued with firefighter's personal drone

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Two hikers and their incapacitated dog who became stranded along a wooded trail in New Mexico were rescued with the help of a life-saving eye in the sky -- a firefighter's personal drone.

The hikers, an unidentified man and woman, and the dog were lost in Otero Canyon Saturday afternoon, according to the Bernalillo County Fire Department. One of them called 911 about 5 p.m., and a rescue team was dispatched to search for them.

PHOTO: Firefighters use drone to rescue stranded hikers and an injured dog, May 12, 2018 at the Otero Canyon in New Mexico.Bernalillo County Fire Department
Firefighters use drone to rescue stranded hikers and an injured dog, May 12, 2018 at the Otero Canyon in New Mexico.

The search team -- five members on the ground, three back at command -- found the hikers and the dog after about an hour, said Lt. David Lujan, a spokesman for the Bernalillo County Fire Department.

But the team became disoriented themselves, Lujan told ABC News. And time was key -- the crew had about two hours of daylight left before darkness would set in, he added.

"They were having a difficult time finding their way back," Lujan said. "The hikers were off the beaten path."

That's when they deployed the personal drone of a firefighter on the team, Lujan said. Coincidentally, the firefighter had been testing it for a commander before the search crew headed out, he said.

The firefighter had the presence of mind to take it along when they were deployed to search for the hikers, Lujan said.

"That was forward thinking by our guys," Lujan said.

Back on the trail, the drone hovered and, with the help of the crew back at command, pointed the search crew and the hikers in the right direction, he said.

But another challenge for the team was the dog -- which was 14 years old and weighed about 60 pounds, Lujan said. The dog appeared exhausted and dehydrated, and had become completely immobile, he added.

PHOTO: Firefighters use drone to rescue stranded hikers and an injured dog, May 12, 2018 at the Otero Canyon in New Mexico.Bernalillo County Fire Department
Firefighters use drone to rescue stranded hikers and an injured dog, May 12, 2018 at the Otero Canyon in New Mexico.

"He wasn't walking," Lujan said. "The dog was just laying there."

The crew gave the dog some water and then took turns carrying it for about a mile and a half back to command, Lujan said.

Neither the hikers nor any members of the rescue team were injured, Lujan said.

The team was "ecstatic" about the rescue -- and the success of the drone, Lujan said.

"They were really excited they accomplished the task," he said.

Lujan added that the department had been planning to purchase two drones even before the rescue.

"This particular mission ... proved that it could work," he said.

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  • Franny Ward

    Sorry, but it's called a Compass.

  • unusual

    Good job rescuing everyone, including the dog. They all deserve special treats tonight.

  • Indy

    The rescue of the old pup is what made this tale of misadventure very special to read for myself. We've been coexisting and working together for thousands of years now, so canines are incredibly special and worthy of our help whenever possible, this is just in my opinion. I value and love Pups and Kids above all.

  • JimBo

    I find it mind boggling at times when people get lost in the outdoors. Then again I was also raised almost entirely outdoors and I do get lost in cities. To each their own I suppose.

  • highway_99

    What a bunch of great guys to take turns carrying that dog out. Dogs deserve it.

  • Kathleen King

    Great job. Stupid hikers! Dogs, especially older dogs, cannot shed heat since they do not sweat through their skins. All the stupid, really stupid, joggers and hikers who take their dogs "with" them to be "together" are simply cruel. They carry water bottles. but once the urea starts to build in a dog's tissue, there is nothing except a fast cool off in an ice bath or other outside source and manual hydration with fluids. This condition is called "tying up" by laymen and also affects other animals, including horses. People, kill yourselves to be healthy, but leave your dog at home.

  • Pits

    Awesome story. So glad the rescuers valued the dog enough to carry it to safety. Every life is worth it.