CHATHAM, N.H. — A young boy from Cumberland was credited Thursday night with helping save his mother’s life Wednesday after she suffered a serious head injury in a hiking mishap.
Shortly before 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, April Kearney, 44, of Cumberland, her husband, Mike, and their 9-year-old son John were hiking across the saddle between West Royce Mountain and Mount Meader on the Basin Trail in Evans Notch, Conservation Officer Alex Lopashanski of New Hampshire Fish and Game said late Thursday evening.
The Basin Rim Trail connects the summits of the 3,114-foot-high West Royce Mountain and 2,783-foot-high Mt. Meader.
“They came off of the Basin Trail onto the Basin Rim Trail and right there at that intersection it goes downhill pretty extremely steeply and it’s super rocky, almost like they’re steps — but they weren’t manufactured steps — and some really big, mean rocks,” Lopashanski said.
“She tripped and fell forward and her total fall, while it wasn’t a vertical drop, it was pretty significant and as close to vertical as you can get and still be able to walk it.”
“But she fell and her head impacted on the left side with a large rock that’s sticking up out of the ground,” he said.
“So it was pretty close to falling and like putting your head through a wall.”
Lopashanski said April Kearney suffered a serious head laceration that went to the bone from her forehead down 4 or 5 inches toward her ear.
“So when she fell and struck her head, she immediately started to seize,” he said.
“She had seizures for about a minute and a half, her husband said, and her pupils were dilated and she was unconscious.”
He said she regained consciousness and started to talk.
“Her husband wrapped her head with a T-shirt and told the son to stay there, keep pressure on it and keep talking to her and don’t let her go to sleep,” Lopashanski said.
Unable to find a cellphone signal, Mike Kearney ran 2.3 miles back to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Cold River Campground on Route 113 and alerted the supervisor, he said.
The supervisor contacted the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office in Paris, Maine, and the Saco Ranger Station in Conway, N.H.
“So we got the original call from Oxford that a woman had fallen 30 feet, hit her head, and the guy reported serious blood loss and the seizure and the dilated pupils, and that’s all the information we had, because he then turned and ran back, obviously, because he had left his son there with her,” Lopashanski said.
“And that little boy did a tremendous job, because when the husband got back to him, the kid was in exactly the same position, holding her head, talking to her, and the bleeding had pretty much clotted up.”
That’s when the call went out for any available volunteers in Maine and New Hampshire, because the trail section is near the border between the states.
Responders included Fryeburg Fire and Rescue, Saco Valley Fire and Rescue, Lovell Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, the New Hampshire National Guard and their Blackhawk helicopter and an Army medic, Mountain Rescue Service, and the North Conway Ambulance Service.
The ambulance service set up a landing zone at Conway Memorial Hospital for the helicopter.
Initially, 17 people arrived to help, but toward the end of the rescue, about 30 helped.
“There was quite an outpouring of support,” Lopashanski said.
A ground team sent up the mountain on the Basin Trail located the trio and radioed the National Guard helicopter their location.
“It was very difficult to see through the canopy to find them from the air,” he said. “Without the ground team, just spotting the husband, wife and son would have been pretty difficult.”
The Blackhawk crew lowered Lopashanski and the Army medic onto a nearby slanted rock face, which they slid down.
April Kearney was placed on a backboard and into a litter, and lifted at 5:50 p.m. aboard the helicopter, which flew her to the Conway hospital.
“She was probably stable when we lifted her,” Lopashanski said.
She was treated and released Thursday afternoon.
The family are experienced mountain hikers and Mike Kearney is a rock and ice climber, he said.
Lopashanski said he spoke with young John Kearney afterward.
“I talked with him at the hospital and he made it seem like it was no big deal,” he said.
“He’s quite a kid. He deserves a medal. He was alone in the woods with his mother, who was in bad shape, for an extended period of time.”
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