Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Injured Leg Helicopter Rescue

Injured Hiker on Old Rag Rescued By Helicopter

Watch the video here:

Well it looks like they are willing to use the helicopter for more than just time critical injuries but do not count on it. A liter carry from remote parts of Old Rag can take 10-15 hours from time of injury.

A hiker was air-rescued from Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park Tuesday August 11, 2009. The injured hiker, a 34-year-old Pennsylvania man, fell off a boulder while hiking by himself on Old Rag Mountain. He appeared to have fractured his leg during the fall. He had a GPS and his cell phone allowed him to call for help. Be aware that cell phone reception is very spotty to non-existent on Old Rag. Emergency phones are on the side of the fee stations. If you are lucky than one of the volunteer patrolers or back country rangers who cary park radios and have various levels of first aid training will be available to help. I would guess that Old Rag averages less than 3,000 man hours of patrol a year and almost 90 plus percent of these hours are probably concentrated on weekends and 50% are concentrated on the 20 most popular weekends when there are multiple Old Rag Mountain Stewards spread across the mountain at the same time. (Note: There are 8,765.8 hours in a year and around 2,736 hours on weekends and holidays during a year). If you are going to be alone you should at least have someone who can call on your behalf in the event you do not make it home. Of course if you stay near the trail you are pretty assured someone will be coming by eventually (fairly quickly on weekends but not so quickly on a winter weekday). The man gave recuers the GPS coordinates of his location so they didn't have to spend anytime looking for him. If you do not have a GPS but do know a nearby blaze number see picture of one of these on my blog post the park communications center can translate it to GPS coordinates. Two medics and a pilot with the U.S. Park Police's aviation section lifted the hiker to safety.


  1. Will the injured hiker pay the costs associated with this rescue?

  2. I do not believe that SNP charges anything for rescues but I will verify with the Rangers this weekend. Some national parks do expect rescue costs to be reimbursed and some parks require individuals engaged in high risk behaviour to post bonds or buy rescue insurance policies. Besides the time and money costs to individuals and organizations wilderness rescues often cause environmental impacts. Rescue activities can themselves be risky. If a member of your group is ever injured be very cautious not to let it cause a cascade of crises. Even trained rescuers have been hurt or killed as a result of rescue activities. We should all try to be prudent when we are in the out back. That said, please keep enjoying the outdoors just approach it responsibly.

  3. Thank you for that informative response. I didn't know that bonds or rescue insurance policies were available - good idea IMO.

  4. Don I did not get a definitive answer from the rangers. In general Shenandoah National Park does not charge but they might if the person was deemed to be reckless or negligent.

    While searching the net I did find out that the old idea about posting a bond is frowned on because rescuers do not want individuals waiting too long to ask for help for fear of losing their bond. Some places have a rescue fund that they either mandate all pay into or ask for donations. It appears in parts of the world like Europe the rescue insurance is common. It does not appear to be used much in the US. That said if you were so inclined you can buy it from places like Global Rescue which especially if you are travelling into a remote part of the world with poor medical infrastructure. They also sell what the call a security portion on their policy which provides evacuation services in the event of political instability ect. American Alpine membership provides some base amount of rescue insurance as a membership benefit and the Spot personal locator folks sell an add on rescue insurance option in their monthly service plans. Just this last spring there was an Eagle Scout who causes a fairly large search to be mounted in the White Mountains and his family received a bill for around $25,000 because his behaviour was considered either negligent or reckless (not sure which). Evidently State laws vary on this matter. The summary of what I am seeing in regards to the States is that rescue services do not like to charge with the exception of what they consider reckless or negligent behavour. If normal behavour is resulting in too much pressure on rescue budgets to take it out of the general tax funds then organizations appear to be applying some type of use fee to everybody.
    Probably way more than you wanted to know but I was curious myself.