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October 21, 2014

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A whole mountain of support’: Vigil honors officer who died trying to rescue hiker

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Brian Nordli

Mount Charleston residents bow their head for a moment of silence and prayer at Mount Charleston Baptist Church to pay their respects to fallen Metro Police Search and Rescue officer David Vanbuskirk on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. More than 60 people attended the vigil to honor Vanbuskirk, who died on Monday while attempting to rescue a hiker at Mount Charleston.

Updated Thursday, July 25, 2013 | 11:31 a.m.

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Metro Police Officer David Vanbuskirk, who died Monday while rescuing a stranded hiker, is shown riding in a helicopter near Bonnie Springs in May 2013 while helping train Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

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A memorial is set up to honor Metro Police Search and Rescue officer David Vanbuskirk at the entrance of Mary Jane Falls at Mount Charleston following a vigil Wednesday, July 24, 2013. More than 60 people attended the vigil at Mount Charleston Baptist Church to pay their respects to Vanbuskirk, who died on Monday while attempting to rescue a hiker at Mount Charleston.

Nestled on a mountainside nook behind Mount Charleston Baptist Church a group of people raised flashlights and bowed their heads Wednesday night to honor of a man few of them knew.

The Mount Charleston community gathered to pray and conduct a vigil for Metro Police Search and Rescue officer David Vanbuskirk. They may not have known him personally, but they knew of his work. They knew of the sacrifices those officers make, and the dangers they face to keep people in their community and others safe — especially after the recent Mount Charleston wildfire.

His death while rescuing a hiker on their mountain reverberated throughout the community. They gathered to honor the fallen officer and pay their respects.

“We just want to honor and show our respects for officer David Vanbuskirk,” Gale Daines said. “He lost a life and gave his life for everyone in the community. What we went through opened our eyes.”

More than 60 people attended the vigil including several volunteer police officers and Metro Police officer Robert Hagberg. A donation was raised for Vanbuskirk’s family and white roses were passed out.

Pastor Earl Greene said his phone lit up Tuesday morning with calls from residents asking to host a vigil at the church for Vanbuskirk. Many had seen the influx of sirens and helicopters around the area Monday night when Vanbuskirk fell from a hoist cable attached to a helicopter while rescuing a hiker.

“We were heartbroken, shocked,” Daines said. “We couldn’t believe what happened.”

Greene thought a vigil was a great idea and offered to host it at the church’s prayer garden, which was fittingly built by a Metro Police officer.

Greene provided a service reading passages from the Bible about honoring law enforcers, and a few notes and poems written by community members to Vanbuskirk.

Hagberg, who worked with Vanbuskirk on several missions, added that his fallen colleague was one of the hardest workers he had ever met. He said he would always remember Vanbuskirk’s professionalism and smile.

“Your outpouring here and the community in the valley, your sympathy and thoughts and prayers have not gone unnoticed,” Hagberg said. “Our thanks go out to you for all the support you’ve given us.”

The service concluded with a moment of silence and prayer for Vanbuskirk.

“I hope Dave’s family get the idea and word that we love them and appreciate them,” Greene said. “If they need anything, there is a whole mountain of support.”

After the vigil, several residents drove to the entrance of Mary Jane Falls and added white flowers to a growing flower patch. In the middle of the patch stood a sign that summed up the community’s thoughts.

It read: “In honor of our fallen hero, officer Vanbuskirk.”

Vanbuskirk also was honored at Thursday's Nevada Gaming Commission with tributes from Commissioners Tony Alamo and John Moran Jr.

Alamo, a doctor, has volunteered his medical services to the Search and Rescue team and knew Vanbuskirk, and Moran, who has known Vanbuskirk all his life, offered comments and condolences at the beginning of the meeting.

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