CNN — When a call came in about a stranded hiker, Las Vegas Police Officer David Vanbuskirk hopped onto a helicopter with a rescue crew, and rushed to retrieve the man from a rock ledge.
At Mount Charleston, a helicopter harness attached to Vanbuskirk lowered him toward the hiker -- dangerous terrain made foot rescue impossible. He retrieved the hiker and attached him to the rescue equipment, and signaled the aircraft to lift them up.
As the helicopter did, Vanbuskirk got detached from the device and plunged into the canyon below Monday night, dying on impact, authorities said. The hiker, who was in the Mary Jane Falls area, was hoisted to safety.
Additional rescue crews scoured the canyon and found Vanbuskirk's body, officials said. It was unclear what caused the device to detach.
"This officer dedicated his life to saving people and that act ultimately cost him his own life," Sheriff Doug Gillespie told CNN affiliate KVVU.
Vanbuskirk, 36, was a 13-year veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and worked with the rescue division for six years.
His friends had nicknamed him officer Rambo Dave for his love of the outdoors and the martial arts, CNN affiliate KTNV reported.
"David was one of the most sincere people, and I just can't believe it," Michael Connolly, a friend, told KTNV.
Vanbuskirk, who was married, is the first officer to die in the line of duty since 2009 in the the department, KVVU reported.
No information was released about the hiker.