State Patrol Watches From The Sky - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

State Patrol Watches From The Sky

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Addie Olson


A driver that ends up in a ditch can go unseen for hours or even days. The Iowa State Patrol is out on the roads searching for stranded drivers every day, but sometimes that's not enough.

"People that end up in the ditch sometimes can't be seen from the interstate or the traveled portion of the highways," said Sgt. Scott Bright of the Iowa State Patrol.

Three people died this year in Iowa after being stranded in their cars for hours.

"Temperatures especially like today, 13 below zero, we're looking that if somebody's in the ditch, chances of them surviving are very, very slim," Bright said.

The state patrol scans ditches from their patrol cars every day, but sometimes the best way to see the roads is from the sky.

"We have a large field of view, we can see miles of roadway at a quick glance," said Senior Trooper Pilot Scott Pigsley.

The state patrol's seven pilots search from the skies on a regular basis, but because of the extreme cold, they'll now be out every day looking for anyone who needs help.

Pigsley has been patrolling Iowa from thousands of feet in the air since 1995.

"We'll call in stranded vehicles that might be occupied and have ground officers dispatch to those locations," Pigsley said. 

Spotting a car that would be unseen from the roads gives pilots the chance to get anyone inside it out of the cold and potentially save their life.

In sub-zero temperatures it doesn't take long to get frostbite or even hypothermia. The state patrol said everyone should keep a charged cell phone with them when out on the roads as well as extra clothes or blankets.

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