Mineral County SAR assists on 12-hour rescue of injured hunter

Courtesy photo Mineral County Search and Rescue aided in a 12-hour rescue mission on Sunday, Sept. 12, in the backcountry near Bornes Peak. The team helped with the extraction of a man who had suffered injuries while out hunting.

MINERAL COUNTY — According to Mineral County Search and Rescue (SAR) Director Terri Wetherill, the team spent 12 hours on Sunday, Sept. 12, rescuing a hunter that was thrown from his horse and sustained potential severe injuries.

“Mineral County SAR coordinated with Upper San Juan (USJ) SAR (Archuleta County) to get an injured hunter out of the backcountry up the West Fork of the San Juan River,” Wetherill said. “The hunter had been thrown from his horse and sustained a potential broken back and significant head injuries. We utilized both Flight for Life (FFL) and the High-Altitude Air National Guard Aviation Training Site (HAATS) to complete the mission successfully. Initially, FFL evaluated for a landing zone in the vicinity of the patient, after determining there was no landing zone available within 1 1/2 miles down mountain from the patient, FFL then made two trips to airlift four members from the USJ SAR Team to the ridge above and about 1.5 miles from the injured hunter.”  

Simultaneously Mineral County SAR commenced hiking up from Bornes Lake Ranch about 5.5 miles to support the operation. Together the two teams had 12 people in the field and additional logistical support from personnel in both counties.

“While four members were tending to the patient, the other members in the field were utilizing hand saws and good old manual labor to cut down and clear beetle-kill trees so that there would be a landing zone available near this location as this was the second significant mission we have had here in the last three years. Both of which were successful,” Wetherill said.

The teams were able to get the patient packaged and hoisted off of the side of the mountain by a Blackhawk helicopter from the HAATS team. The Blackhawk then flew to Stevens Field in Pagosa Springs and turned the patient over to the FFL helicopter, which was more equipped for advanced medical patient care, and then flew the patient to Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango.   

In addition to the rescue, Mineral County SAR has been working to delegate the money recently donated to them by the Friends of Mineral County Emergency Service and have dedicated $10,000 to the future Emergency Services Building Fund.

“We are raising money to build an Emergency Services Building which will be located just South East of the School that would house SAR equipment in addition to a Fire Engine and Ambulance which would provide some flexibility on responding to emergencies which are not in the Creede City district,” Wetherill said. “Our SAR board is working to determine the best use of the rest of the money. We will be meeting this Wednesday evening to make some final decisions. We require five more dual-band radios at a cost of $3,000 apiece so that each member of the team has full communication capabilities. Our SAR vehicle is a 1997 Chevy Suburban with a very tired engine and some other issues. We are looking into having the engine refreshed and some general repairs to bring the truck up to a reliable status, that may cost about $10,000.”

The Mineral County SAR team is also considering the purchase of a few electric bicycles and a bicycle trailer that can be converted to carry an injured adult. The advantage of the electric bicycles would be they can cover a significant amount of ground with less energy expended by the rider, that coupled with the fact SAR teams would be able to hear people calling to them especially at night, could be a game-changer when searching for lost, stranded or injured people. The type of electric bicycle required for mountain riding costs about $5,000.  

“Our SAR Team has been very blessed with support by our community, Friends of Mineral County Emergency Services (FOMCES), Mountain Views at Rivers Edge RV Resort, Wolf Creek Ski Area, and very generous donations from a few specific individuals. This has truly enabled Mineral County SAR to better equip and train our team to respond to any and every type of SAR mission which is a big deal when you consider how much of our county is rugged backcountry," Wetherill said.

For information on joining the Mineral County SAR team, contact Wetherill at 719-850-0515 or email at [email protected]

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