Friday, June 29, 2012

Backcountry team rescues 2 men

Dirt biker, miner transported to medical facilities

Express Staff Writer

Crews pack up the Backcountry Medical Team trailer after rescuing a man from a partial mine tunnel collapse at Frenchman Creek on Wednesday. Photo by David N. Seelig

Ketchum and Sun Valley's Backcountry Medical Team got a workout this week, performing two backcountry rescues in two days.

Ketchum Fire Department Assistant Chief Robbie Englehart said a man was injured near Frenchman Creek in the southern Sawtooth Mountains on Wednesday morning when an exploratory mine tunnel that he had been working in collapsed.

"Some big rocks detached from the ceiling and fell on him," Englehart said.

The man had been working with a partner, who was able to pull him out and drive to Smiley Creek Lodge just north of Galena Summit for help.

The main challenge, Englehart said, was that the road to the accident location was inaccessible to traditional rescue vehicles.

"It's a pretty nasty road," he said, adding that the man was 6.4 miles up Frenchman Creek. "It's only accessible by an ATV."

According to Ketchum Fire Department Chief Mike Elle, the Backcountry Medical Team has a Gator all-terrain vehicle equipped with a stretcher for patient transport. The first on scene was Ketchum Rural Fire Commissioner and paramedic Chris Stephens, who heard radio communications while near Petit Lake. Englehart said Stevens met the reporting party, who was able to lead him to the patient.

The patient was eventually reached by the specially equipped Gator and transported from the scene via Life Flight to Boise. Englehart said the patient had "non-life-threatening" head and neck injuries.

The backcountry team was also paged out Tuesday morning for a report of a dirt biker with chest injuries out Imperial Gulch, south of Greenhorn Gulch midway between Hailey and Ketchum.


"Nobody saw [the crash]," Elle said, though he said the man was biking with a partner who later called 911.

An advanced EMT who is also a resident at Greenhorn Gulch Fire Station was the first on scene, Elle said, reaching the patient on his personal motorcycle while backcountry rescue team members from both the Ketchum and Sun Valley fire departments prepared to hike to the biker.

Elle said a St. Luke's air ambulance was requested after crews determined it would take half an hour to hike to the patient with a special wheeled litter that features mountain bike wheels and disc brakes for easy trail use. However, he said the team began to hike in to the patient when the helicopter reported difficulty landing.

"The helicopter, due to windy conditions, couldn't land near the patient," he said, but crews from the helicopter were able to reach the man before the remainder of the backcountry team.

The patient was taken to St. Luke's, where, Elle said, he was admitted for chest injuries and was in serious condition as of Wednesday.

Elle said that even though these calls take a huge response, volunteers and remaining staff stay behind at the fire stations to respond to other calls that come in—at least one was responded to during the dirt biker incident.

Kate Wutz:

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