Dangerous week in the national parks

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Several incidents over the last week highlight again how recreation in national parks can be dangerous. Although many people view parks as playgrounds, danger situations await visitors who don't pay the proper respect to Mother Nature. Here are a few of the incidents that have been reported by NPS Digest in the past week:

* A 26-year-old hiker was descending from the summit of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park last Sunday when she fell 600 feet to her death from the Half Dome cables. A severe lightning, thunder, and rainstorm was present in the area for several hours that morning and afternoon, which likely made the granite slopes of Half Dome slick.

* A 23-year-old climber fell 50 feet on the evening of July 27th in the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. Responding park and local rescuers treated his injuries and began a carryout up to the rim of Sunset Rock in the park’s Lookout Mountain area. He was air-lifted that evening with non-life-threatening injuries – a dislocated shoulder and a shattered left foot.

* Rangers in Grand Teton National Park rescued a 20-year-old hiker who fell 1,200 feet last Friday morning and sustained critical injuries. Ryan Haymaker of Houston, Texas, was glissading down the Ellingwood Couloir on the south side of the Middle Teton when he lost control and hit a rock, causing him to flip over and continue head first down the couloir. A bystander who witnessed the fall called 911 to report the incident. Haymaker was loaded into a helicopter and flown to the Lupine Meadows rescue cache, where he was met by a team of emergency medical providers. Haymaker was stabilized at the rescue cache and then flown directly on an Air Idaho life flight to Idaho Falls. Haymaker and his companion had glissaded about a third of the way down the couloir when the incident occurred. Haymaker was glissading behind his companion when he picked up speed and passed him; shortly thereafter, he hit the first series of rocks. Haymaker was not wearing a helmet at the time of the incident. Although he was carrying an ice axe and wearing crampons, he was unable to right himself or self arrest.

* On Sunday, July 24th, Mt. Rainier National Park dispatch received an emergency PLB (personal locator beacon) signal from a party climbing high on the Kautz Glacier route on Mt. Rainier. After determining the location of the signal, climbing rangers from Camp Muir responded on foot to find a visitor with a probable fractured tibia/fibula. The climber was injured after hitting a rock while “glissading” down a steep snow slope. A team of ten rescuers worked throughout the night to evacuate the injured climber across three miles of steep and glaciated terrain. The rescue required complex rigging techniques to complete nearly 2000 feet of roped lowering. After reaching the lower Nisqually Glacier, the team was met by seven additional rangers from Paradise who assisted with a technical hauling system and the remainder of the evacuation to the trailhead.

* A 15-year-old Boy Scout was killed in a boating accident on Lake Powell in Glen Canyon last Thursday night, and a second Boy Scout and an adult were injured. A group of scouts and adults were riding in a boat back to camp after dinner on Antelope Island. The boat, which was being operated in darkness, apparently struck a rock outcropping, throwing the boy out of the boat and fatally injuring him. The second Scout and the adult sustained injuries in the impact but were not thrown from the vessel. The Scout was flown out by Classic Lifeguard helicopter for medical attention. The adult was transported by ambulance to Page Hospital.

* Several drownings have occurred in the last several days, including one at the Sinks in the Great Smoky Mountains, one in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, as well as two separate incidents on the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreation River.


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