Crocker Rescue 6-24-2014
On Tuesday, June 24, around 4 p.m., FSAR was notified that there was a possible rescue of a through hiker in need on the A.T., reportedly approximately 4 miles south of Maine Rt. 27 in the Crocker mountains.
FSAR team member Barry L. was working a shift with NorthStar ambulance and responded to the Rt. 27 A.T. south trailhead along with his paramedic partner, Corey B, and Harold S. The initial response 'hasty team' was made up of 4 people, Maine game warden Scott Stevens, community volunteer Jake C, and NorthStar paramedic, Steve N, and Barry L. The plan was to make contact with the hiker (who had cell service) and then call for additional backup if needed. The crew hiked for more than 5 miles in approximately four hours before finally making physical contact with the patient just south of North Crocker. Fortunately, cell coverage allowed for updates with the patient before the hasty team arrived at the patient. Meanwhile, a crew made up of Eustis and Phillips firefighters staged at the initial command post at the AT trailhead in case a carry out was needed.
Steve M. put FSAR on ‘standby’ around 5 p.m. and 6 team members indicated that they were available to respond if needed. Pete B, an FSAR team member who was also on duty for Northstar at the time, called to discuss and pre-plan some different scenarios. FSAR member Al called and suggested that, if needed, the Plumb Creek Road could be utilized to drive within 1 mile of the summit of North Crocker on a bushwhack trail.
The Maine Forest Service was also contacted about the possibility of using a helicopter to short-haul the hiker off the trail. They responded with a helo while there was still daylight, but strong winds and poor visibility in fog, and a lowering cloud ceiling made a short-haul too risky.
Once the hasty team made contact with the patient, the Northstar medic, examined the hiker. He began treatment for dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea possibly from food poisoning.
As darkness was quickly approaching, Barry requested that a group of FSAR members gather food, tents, sleeping bags and headlamps to re-supply the hasty/medical team near the summit of North Crocker for a possible overnight on the trail as the weather was forecasted to deteriorate. Pat C, Devin L. and Steve M. staged at the Kingfield Fire Station at 9 p.m. and were hiking from the parking lot on the Caribou Valley Rd. around 10 p.m.
Devin and Mit discuss and sort gear and food for the hasty team at KFD before moving to the trailhead.
Hasty team member Stevens (MWS) was being ‘shadowed’ by a camera crew from the 'Northwoods Law' reality television program. Although the 4 man crew was apparently in good physical shape for the hike, they carried little personal gear and were unprepared to spend the night with the patient on the mountain. This scenario was looking like a real possibility at this point. Once patient treatment had begun, warden Stevens hiked the camera team back down the mountain via South Crocker and Caribou Valley.
The heavily loaded resupply team (weighed later, Mit’s pack was nearly 50 lbs!) began the nighttime ascent of South Crocker at a surprisingly moderate pace. The resupply team encountered the departing camera team next to Crocker Cirque. One cameraman was using the very bright on-camera LED studio light for hiking illumination! After a brief break to swap info and a few stories, both groups continued.
Meanwhile the patient was responding well to treatment and eventually felt strong enough to attempt a slow hike down the mountain. Around midnight, Barry radioed the resupply team and recommended they stop climbing and to stage on the trail and wait for the descending medical team. The team was an estimated 30 minutes from the summit of South Crocker at this point. At 12:30 a.m. the medical team met up with the resupply group and provided snacks to the hasty team during a trailside break.
SOP for rescue: "hurry up and wait!" the re-supply team waits on the A.T. just above Crocker Cirque
for the hasty team rendezvous.
Soon we all began the slow descent down to the parking area on the Caribou Valley Rd. The patient was uncomfortable but was also chatty and kept up a reasonable pace stopping every 20-30 minutes to rest.
Rescuers take a break during the hike off South Crocker around 1:30 a.m.
At 2:15 a.m., the party hit the parking area where the patient was immediately escorted to the waiting Northstar SUV with Medic Lee I. The patient was then shuttled down the Caribou Valley logging road and out to a waiting ambulance on Rt. 27 where he was evaluated and transported to FMH.
Overall the rescue was a success. No rescuers were injured, and the patient was connected with medical care as quickly and safely as possible.
As with all search and rescue calls, FSAR team members plan to critique the rescue to share perspectives, list effective practices and to learn from the things that we would do differently next time.
Observations respectfully submitted by S. Mitman 6-26-2014