Hiker From Viral Helicopter Rescue Files $2M Claim Against the City

Katalin Metro spins violently while attached to the helicopter.
Katalin Metro spins violently while attached to the helicopter. Via YouTube

A 74-year-old woman whose terrifying helicopter rescue went viral earlier this year has filed a $2 million notice of claim against the city of Phoenix for negligence.

In the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, Katalin Metro said she told rescuers she did not want to be airlifted out and suffered serious injuries requiring surgery as a result of the dizzying ordeal.

Around 8 a.m. on June 4, Metro and her husband, George, were hiking on Piestewa Peak when she slipped and hit her face. She became disoriented and had trouble getting back down the 2,612-foot mountain, so she and her husband contacted the Phoenix Fire Department.

According to the notice of claim, Metro told rescuers that she did not want to be taken off the trail by helicopter and simply wanted assistance hiking back down. But first responders decided to get her off the mountain by helicopter instead, and strapped her into a Stokes basket hanging below the helicopter by a rope.

What happened next was caught on video and has since been viewed millions of times. Dangling midair, Metro began whipping around in circles violently. She spun violently at about 150 times per minute during the worst of it.

At the time, the Phoenix Fire Department held a press conference and said while what happened to Metro is rare, it wasn't a big deal and she "suffered no ill effects from that spin other than being a little bit dizzy."

The notice of claim tells a different story.

Metro says she had swelling and bruising around her eyes, blood in her auditory canals, and soft tissue swelling in parts of her skull. She also had to get surgery for a spinal cord injury.

She spent about three weeks in the hospital after the incident and later began outpatient therapy to recover from her injuries. Altogether, Metro's medical bills from June and July cost about $290,000, she said.

“Katalin Metro’s injuries were caused or contributed to by the negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence, carelessness and/or other fault on the part of the City of Phoenix,” the claim states.

Two days after the incident, Metro's husband, George, spoke with KTAR radio (92.3 FM) and said his wife's injuries were far more severe than initially reported.

"Her eyes were all blackened. Her face was all black and blue. Her hands and feet were black and blue. I said 'Jesus, what happened?'" George Metro recalled.

A nurse explained to him that "the blood went all the way to her head and broke the small vessels in her face," he said.

Katalin told him that she "thought she was going to die" while she was spinning around in the basket dangling beneath the helicopter. She said she took deep breaths in and out to keep herself from passing out while it was happening.

The city of Phoenix now has 60 days to respond to the claim under Arizona law. If the city rejects the claim or doesn't respond within that time, the Metros will have the legal right to file a lawsuit within a year.

See below for the full claim:

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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.

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