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A hunter and two firefighters were airlifted to safety, one at a time, after they broke through the ice Sunday afternoon in the Alabama swamps of Genesee County.

A hunter, who broke through while deer hunting, first called 911 at about 2:30 p.m. Local firefighters, dressed in cold-water rescue suits, asked for help from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office’s Aviation Unit after they were unable to bring him all the way back to safety themselves.

Capt. Kevin Caffery, who pilots Air One, the sheriff’s office’s helicopter, said he and Art Litzinger, the tactical flight officer, got that call around 4:30 p.m.

“As we started out there, the weather was getting bad. It got dark,” Caffery said. “We fly with night vision goggles and we also have an infrared camera on the helicopter.”

Caffery said they found the first victim on a bank, being helped by firefighters. The firefighters helped lift him up and into a basket, which then was deposited in the area where several dozen other firefighters were waiting.

“They set up a landing area for us,” Caffery said. “When we landed, we were told there were two more ... that needed to be rescued.”

So the helicopter made two additional trips to the same area. When getting the third man ready for transport, the basket also went through the ice, Caffery said.

The status of three, after they reached the staging area, wasn’t immediately available, but they were not believed to have had any life-threatening injuries

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com