While we’re staying home and wearing face masks to hopefully save lives, there are other ways to save lives as well, like, truly heroic ways that have nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic.

In Madera County, California, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer named Brent Donley went hiking with his family. He didn’t know that his training in search and rescue would become vital during this trip.

Angel Falls, which is near Bass Lake, is a popular place for hiking trips, and Donley and his family were far from the only people on the trails. While he was hiking, he got a call about an urgent matter. Police officers are never really off duty.

Donley used a strap from his backpack to save the life of a man who was trapped in a whirlpool.


Donley’s wife Christina filmed a video of her husband as he rescued the struggling hiker, and the video was posted on the Fresno CHP Facebook page.

“While hiking at Angel Falls near Bass Lake in Madera County, with his family, off-duty CHP Officer Brent Donley (wearing the ball-cap) was alerted to a victim who was struggling to keep above water, stuck in the cold and fast moving water. Thinking quick, he utilized his Adidas backpack’s para cord style strap, cut it out and tied it together with a small branch to allow the victim something to grab. With the assistance of other hikers, Officer Donley pulled the man to safety and assisted him for until help from the Madera County Sheriff’s Office arrived. Officer Donley’s quick thinking and training in search and rescue, undoubtedly helped to save the man’s life.”

Donley told ABC7, “A lady approached me and said, ‘Hey, do you have a rope?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t have a rope,’ and she explained to me there was somebody in the water that was about to go down the waterfall.”

It took Donley a few minutes to think about how to rescue the hiker, but luckily he had his backpack with him and a knife that h always carries with him when he goes hiking. He simply cut the drawstring out of his backpack and tied it to a rope to rescue th hiker. Although Donley was working quickly, he told ABC7, “I wasn’t panicked at all.”

Many people have already seen the amazing video of Donley’s life-saving rescue, and they are amazed at his heroic actions. One viewer commented, “He was very lucky!!! Stay away from the rivers this time of year . The water is too high and rapid.” 

Obviously, Donley didn’t complete this rescue on his own. Other hikers helped him pull the unnamed man out of the water. One comment on the video reads, “Congrats to ALL those who helped in this rescue! VERY lucky victim to have those folks present!!!”

Congrats to all indeed! Stay safe out there, and not just by wearing face masks and social distancing!