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Hudsonville students save hiker during South Dakota trip

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HUDSONVILLE, Mich. -- Twenty-six Hudsonville high school seniors are being called heroes after helping a hiker who fell down a steep ravine during their school trip out West.

Chris Bolhuis, a wildlife first responder and high school teacher, never thought he'd have to put those skills to use at the same time.  But when he spotted a hiker needing help at Badlands National Park in South Dakota on Tuesday, the West Michigan teacher sprang into action.

"It was a steep slope, so we got all our kids back, and we made like a human chain, carrying her up the ravine," Bolhuis said.

His students helped carry the hiker, who couldn't put any weight on her left side, nearly half a mile up a steep ravine.

“It was hot out, it was tough work. Some of the guys didn’t tap out once, they were soaked. This was hard work out in the badlands. But it was totally worth it in the end,” Hudsonville senior Devin Elenbaas said.

Cellphone reception in the area is spotty, and it takes park rangers and EMS personnel longer to find someone needing help.

“I think that without the amount of kids we have here, I’m not sure that the paramedics could have gotten her out safe. I think it was a blessing that we had this many people out here at this time,” Elenbaas said.

The students were there to study geology, but they say this was an important lesson they normally wouldn't have gotten.

“We weren’t expecting this. We were expecting to be gone, and go to our next destination. This hour long detour we took…we had to fit the need for the situation, and do the best that we could do,” Elenbaas said.

Bolhuis says that in his 17 years doing this trip, he's never had a rescue quite like this one.  The kids spent their day Wednesday hiking Mount Rushmore.

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