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Posts Tagged ‘Search & Rescue’

When I got home yesterday morning, my dad asked me if I had heard about the car that had gone off the cliff near the Casparis mines.

The area he was referring to was near this now-archived geocache in the hills above Connellsville, PA.  We found the cache back in 2005, shortly after the Pennsylvania Game Commission paid contractors to blast shut the mine/caves.

Four people in a Ford Expedition went off-roading in this fairly remote area with trails just barely wide enough for a 4wd vehicle.  You can read the article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review or see the one on WTAE’s website which also includes video.

Just a few things to point out here that I think need to be emphasized:

  • Reports say that they were about 300 feet down from the trail… Your average rescue rope is usually 150ft minimum, usually 200ft max and it’s not as if you’re just tying one end to the basket and pulling at the other end, a good portion of that length gets fed through the pulleys and handed to the “haul team” to pull to raise the litter.  With that being said, to raise a rescue basket 300 feet would likely require multiple “pitches” or individual rope systems set up on different parts of the cliff, probably at least 2, maybe even 3 or 4 depending on the specific terrain.  That’s nuts.
  • Technical rescue is hard and requires a lot of concentration to do correctly in broad daylight.  These guys were working in the middle of the night, setting up their 1-4 haul systems to get that litter up the cliff in the dark.  Doing rope work in the dark just means that you have to be that much more 1,000% sure that your system is bombproof.
  • They had to do all that work setting up the rope systems just to lift the patients to the trail, where they were loaded onto ATVs and taken down the trail to a spot where it widened up and the HUMVEE AMBULANCE was waiting, which then drove them further down until it could reach a street ambulance which then took them to a field where they had staged the four separate medical helicopters. In the words of the Wonderpets, “What’s gonna work? TEAMWORK!”
  • While it seems like that’s a lot to get them out to an ambulance, just imagine if they hadn’t been in an area accessible by ATV.  A manual carryout, with people have to actually hike the patient out of the woods in the rescue basket is EXTREMELY slow.  2-3 hours to travel a mile while carrying a patient in a litter is generally considered a good estimate.  Again, these guys were fortunate that they were as “easy” (relatively) to access as they were.
  • Speaking of fortunate, they were EXTREMELY FORTUNATE that one of them A. had a cellphone B. was conscious enough to try and call 911 after the wreck and C. that the phone actually worked!  FURTHERMORE, the fact that they were able to give a vague location meant that it took the first crews an hour to find them rather than HOURS.  If they hadn’t been able to call out, they probably would not have been found.  You’ll notice in the video on the WTAE site that there were other wrecked cars at the bottom of the cliff…  It’s fairly common for people to take cars out there with the specific intent of dumping them…  Their expedition would have just blended in.  That 911 call was easily the difference between all of them surviving and all of them dying.
  • The rescue took approximately 6 hours.  Imagine me giving those crews a standing ovation right now, because that’s very impressive for the amount of work and coordination that went into the rescue.  Six hour may seem like a long time, but the fact that it didn’t take longer shows the incredible teamwork that took place.
  • The estimate was that the rescue involved at least 60 first responders.  While that number includes paid EMS personnel, flight crews, and law enforcement officers, I can tell you that a big chunk of that, if not the majority were volunteer firefighters.  Regardless of whether or not they were volunteers, those on-scene gave up six hours of their time in the dark to help their fellow man.  Again, please take a moment to imagine me giving a standing ovation.
  • Finally, Mon Valley EMS out of Monessen, PA got to play with their humvee.  How cool is that?

Yep! That's a legit military ambulance humvee. AWESOME!

All in all, I’m extremely impressed with this rescue and I just wanted to point out the story to those who might not have heard about it, and to point out the specifics of just why this really was a spectacular job by Fayette County’s first responders for those who may have looked at it as “just another car wreck in the country.”  If you live in Fayette County, you are extremely fortunate to have these folks watching your back.

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To say that I am tired right now would be a gross understatement…

Saturday, I got up at 6am to drive about an hour Southeast of Morgantown to Preston County.  Friends of Cheat was holding their annual Cheat Fest, which includes a 5k race.  The Mountaineer Area Rescue Group provided on-course safety and communications.  It was fairly uneventful, I basically just sat on the road about half a mile into the course and radioed when the first and runners passed me and again when they passed coming back (it was an out and back course).  I say it was uneventful, which is a good thing.  In that type of situation (where we were also responsible for first-aid until an ambulance could arrive) being bored because nothing happens is a good.

After Cheat Fest I drove to Pittsburgh in preparation for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, which was actually today, but I had to pick up my volunteer information.  I served as an amateur radio operator providing communications between shuttle busses running the course.  I won’t comment on specific things, but I think that when people sit down and reflect on the event there will be a lot of things to improve on; not only from the amateur radio coordinators, but also the event coordinators themselves.  I won’t say much more, but I’m sure if you look around on Google, you’re bound to find some blogs complaining about some of the issues that we had.

The good news is that most of the problems are fixable, and if Dick’s Sporting Goods continues to sponsor the race Pittsburgh will have a truly awesome marathon within a few short years.

The bad news is that after getting up at 4:30 to get into Pittsburgh on time and spending most of the day outside in the cold, I am completely whipped and ready for bed.

With that being said, my weekend break from all things academic is over and it’s time to hit the proverbial books.  I have two final exams on Wednesday and two more on Friday.  I plan to spend most of the intermediate time studying and packing.

Good luck to everyone who, like me, still has some time in school before they’re done for the summer.

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