Routt County Search and Rescue credits preparedness, experience for smooth weekend mission
Routt County Search and Rescue President Jay Bowman understands accidents will happen, but the importance of being prepared when things go wrong was evident after a call Sunday, March 12, about a snowmobiler who broke his leg on Rabbit Ears Pass.
“Accidents happen,” Bowman said. “They happen to experts and professionals all the time, so we recognize that accidents are going to happen, but if you’re prepared to deal with those things, it makes everybody’s job and the outcomes much easier.”
The call came in at 1 p.m. Sunday, and seven people responded to an injured snowmobiler about four miles northwest of Dumont Lake near Forest Service Road 311. Bowman said the actions taken by the reporting parties after the accident helped expedite the rescue efforts, which had concluded by 5 p.m.
Bowman said the 50-year-old man with a left leg fracture was lucky that the people he was with were prepared and their actions made the rescue more efficient and resulted in the injured person getting medical attention more quickly.
“Fortunately, one of the members in his group was prepared and trained in backcountry first aid,” Bowman said. “He was medically trained and well trained in all aspects, so having him up there helped.”
Bowman said the reporting parties were able to call 911 immediately after the accident using a cell phone and give Routt County Communications a location, setting Search and Rescue’s response in motion with little delay.
The reporting party’s cell phone was fully charged, and reception was good, which allowed the incident commander to call the reporting party directly and determine further details, as well as communicate how the field team was progressing into the location.
As Search and Rescue set up at the Dumont Lake parking lot and trekked four miles to the scene, the reporting parties were able to create a shelter and comfort the patient. Both the injured man and the people helping him were carrying the 10 essential items needed in backcountry survival, so they were prepared to render aid as rescuers made their way to the scene.
While that was happening, another rider in the group was able to scout an extraction route and began building a road by using their snowmobile to go back-and-fourth packing down the snow. Another group that was in the area helped with the process.
The rider who had scouted the trail then met Search and Rescue members at the staging area and took them directly to the patient. Because the path leading to the injured party was packed, Search and Rescue was able to reach the scene more quickly along with a medic from Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and a Summit Extreme — a specialized snowmobile that can tow a patient sled into the scene.
“That snowmobile allows us to pull our patient sled into some of those more difficult areas,” Bowman said. “That’s why we take our lighter powder machines in first because they go in front and carve the road out. That’s why it’s so nice to have experienced riders up there with the injured person waiting for us because they were able to find a good route and build that road for us before we got there.”
In addition to having well charged cell phones, Bowman said the group also had back country radios, or BCAs, which also made the rescue easier. He also said it didn’t hurt that this group had some medical training.
“If you have some medical training, like a backcountry first aid or a wilderness first aid course, those are extremely helpful things to have because it takes us a while to get there,” Bowman said. “It takes us a while to get up to the trailhead, and then once we get there, we must unload, get everybody organized and get back into wherever they are. If you’ve got first aid training and you have the medical equipment with you — just basic first aid equipment with you — that can be a tremendous help.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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