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Video shows dramatic rescue of hiker clinging to side of California cliff as ocean rises below

A helicopter's thermal imaging camera captured the man desperately hanging on to a gravel rock face after a steep cliffside drop in Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
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The dramatic helicopter rescue of a man who clung to a Northern California cliffside after having fallen off a trail in Golden Gate National Recreation Area was caught on video released by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

The Southern Marin Fire District requested a helicopter at about 7:40 p.m. Sunday; the helicopter used thermal imaging to spot the man, who was dangling precariously above the rising ocean tide in the San Francisco Bay Area, the sheriff’s office said on Facebook.

"The victim was about 40 feet off the water line," Jason Golden, battalion chief with Southern Marin Fire District, told KGO-TV of San Francisco. "The individual was starting to lose their grip."

Once officials were close enough to the imperiled hiker, the rescuing officers can be heard in the video pleading with the man, saying, “Don’t let go!”

The man had fallen 50 to 60 feet from the trail, the sheriff's office said. He was grabbed by the crew of the helicopter, named Henry-1, and swiftly hoisted to safety at the top of the cliff for medical examination by both the fire department and paramedics.

"The rescuer, afterwards speaking with him, said that was one of the most precarious rescues because of how the victim was grabbing on and how quickly they were letting go," Golden told KGO.

The hiker is stable, with minor injuries from scrapes and bruises.

The site of the harrowing rescue is known as the Batter Alexander Trail, which Golden said tends to be highly populated this time of year because of the warmer weather. It is laden with steep cliffs.

After the successful rescue effort, Golden urged other hikers to exercise greater caution when they venture out on the trail.

"Please be very careful when you get to the cliffs," he said. "Don't go up close to the edge, and please don't try and climb up."