David VanBuskirk, a Las Vegas Police Officer, Was a True Hero
David VanBuskirk had been a police officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for 13 years until his tragic death last year while saving a hiker from Mount Charleston.
Investigations continue into the incident, but national search and rescue experts believe an officer’s death could have been prevented had Metro upgraded its helicopter equipment to a modern locking hook.
Early Life and Education
Officer David Vanbuskirk was a true hero, often saving the lives of both fellow officers and civilians alike. A Southern Nevada native, he joined Metro Police Department in 1999 and quickly rose to become an invaluable member of their search-and-rescue team.
With his dedication and hard work, he earned the highest honor Metro Search and Rescue can bestow upon an officer: captain! After four years of service, he achieved this prestigious rank.
Today, his colleagues honored his life with poignant ceremonies held at Central Christian Church in Henderson. The service was streamed live on several local television stations. A police motorcade escorted Vanbuskirk’s flag-draped casket from Palm Mortuary downtown to the church for visitation and his funeral service.
Vanbuskirk, a Shelburne, VT native and professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, was an ardent supporter of local community health centers. He specialized in child and adolescent psychiatry while serving as director of South Shore Mental Health Center in Quincy, MA, as well as clinical faculty at Dartmouth Medical School.
On Monday night, Vanbuskirk tragically passed away during a helicopter rescue mission at Mount Charleston. While being lowered on a cable from the helicopter’s electric hoist, his body became detached and sank into the canyon below, suffering fatal injuries, according to authorities.
This officer was part of Metro’s search and rescue team, which performs more than 100 helicopter rescues annually. As such, he was considered one of their most experienced officers.
Achievements and Honors
David VanBuskirk served in the United States Army during the Civil War, serving as Captain during many major campaigns.
He tragically passed away during an aerial rescue operation while lowering a hiker to the helicopter with his colleagues.
Police Chief Steven Gillespie reported that their operation began when they received a call about an apparently lost hiker.
On a rock ledge near Mary Jane Falls, a hiker became stranded. A Metro helicopter with five people aboard, including VanBuskirk, found the victim and hoisted him onto its deck for safe transport into the air.
VanBuskirk and the hiker were being lifted to the aircraft when he became detached from the line and fell. Unfortunately, the exact distance he fell is unknown.
David Vanbuskirk, a Las Vegas police officer, epitomized the hero. As part of Metro’s elite Search and Rescue team, he saved many lives.
Officer Vanbuskirk responded quickly when a call came in about a lost hiker on Mount Charleston. Boarding his helicopter, he raced to the scene and safely recovered the man who had become disoriented and stuck on a rock ledge.
Vanbuskirk signaled the aircraft to lift him and the hiker up. Unfortunately, as they took off, Vanbuskirk became detached from his hoist cable and fell into a canyon below, according to authorities.
Sheriff Doug Gillespie declared Vanbuskirk’s fall “unsurvivable.” An investigation is underway into how far he fell, as a 13-year veteran of the police department.
David VanBuskirk (born May 13, 1954) is a police officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. He was raised and educated in Nevada before becoming a law enforcement officer.
His estimated net worth ranges between $25-34K. He is married and has no children.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Phoenix.
David and Elizabeth founded the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, Peru to document and preserve Inca weaving traditions for future generations. They showcased their artwork throughout the United States.