Samantha Poirier

Nov. 30, 2022
A photo of Samantha Poirier with Larimer Sheriff's Posse
Samantha Poirier with Larimer Sheriff’s Posse, July 2022. Photo courtesy of Samantha Poirier.

Eyes from above

The morning of July 14 was one of the most challenging seek-and-assist flights for helicopter pilot Samantha Poirier. It was the second day of a search for a missing child in Rawah Wilderness, located in Larimer County, and time was of the essence.

Poirier, lead helicopter pilot for LifeLine 1 at REACH Air Medical Services, the official aviation vendor for UCHealth’s LifeLine air medical program, noted that flight conditions were turbulent that day.

“Where it’s (search area) located is a pretty difficult spot to fly,” Poirier said.

Complicating factors included windy conditions, squalls, high altitude and a dense forest of trees. Many first responders were involved in the search including LifeLine’s chief pilot, its clinical crew and dispatchers, Civil Air Patrol, Larimer Sheriff’s Posse, and Larimer County search and rescue personnel.

Among its many services, LifeLine airlifts search and rescue members to remote locations to assist injured, stranded, or lost individuals. Getting a ride by helicopter saves precious time when trying to reach individuals in isolated locations and backcountry.

A sea of dense, 75-foot-tall trees left little to no landing zones for aircraft, so Poirier dropped Larimer County search and rescue members, including a dog, above tree line, where they could then hike down to search for the missing child.

From the helicopter, Poirier and her crew have “eyes from above.” Following several search patterns, Poirier located clothing along a river bend. The child was spotted nearby.

“When you find the clothes and know you’re getting closer, you know there’s hope,” Poirier said. “He’s out there.”

Poirier couldn’t land in the terrain, though, so she communicated the missing child’s location with search and rescue personnel, who ended up riding in on horseback to rescue the child.

“It was pretty rewarding once we found him,” Poirier said. “It was definitely a huge sigh of relief.”

“That’s why we do this job, because you have moments like this. Because you helped them, you helped the family, you helped the group he was with. You know, for everybody, it was a relief.”

Poirier’s passion for her work is deeply personal. Her sister suffered serious injuries in a 2016 ATV crash in Poudre Canyon and was transported by the UCHealth LifeLine crew. Poirier was inspired and in 2019 joined LifeLine, the same crew that saved her sister’s life, as their first female pilot.

“The crew saved my sister’s life,” she said. “And I was able to take a crew out and help that family the way my family was helped.”

Poirier attributes the successful rescue outcome to strong partnerships. It’s a collaboration effort that involves trust and teamwork to be successful in a high stress situation. Every resource utilized and every member involved played a major role in the successful outcome of getting the missing child found.

“When you look at the end result, everybody came together,” she said. “It was incredible to see the efforts of everybody. If we didn’t have good partnerships and relationships, it might not go as smooth.”

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About the author

Christine Freer joined UCHealth as a communications specialist in 2022. Prior to joining UCHealth, Freer served as the lead public information officer at the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County. She spent the last 11 years working in public health, program management, and health care marketing and communications. Freer earned a Bachelor of Arts in public health promotion from Purdue University and a Master of Public Health in social marketing from the University of South Florida. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Jim, and their German shepherd, Lincoln.