TOWNSHIP 1 RANGE 11, Maine — An Appalachian Trail hiker who became ill in the 100 Mile Wilderness region Thursday afternoon died later that day at Millinocket Regional Hospital, according to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Robert Yerike, 69, of Brick, N.J., was nearing the end of his solo through-hike from Springer Mountain, Ga., when he became ill and collapsed on Nesuntabunt Mountain on the west side of Nahmakanta Lake, according to Sgt. Bill Chandler, who is with the Maine Warden Service.
Hikers Emily Cohen, 33, of the island of Maui in Hawaii and her boyfriend, Phillip Beitelman of Orlando, Fla., arrived at Yerike’s location shortly after two other hikers, one of whom was Luke Angelini, 23, of Fort Lee, N.J.
Cohen said Friday that Yerike was not coherent when they arrived, so the hikers called 911 on a cell phone for help. While Angelini and another hiker tended to Yerike, Cohen and Beitelman walked about two miles down the mountain to the lake to flag down a warden pilot who had been summoned to the scene. They then waited for about an hour for wardens to arrive by boat, Cohen said.
Wardens initially thought Yerike was on the shore of the lake and they had planned to airlift him, but later learned he was still on the trail because he was unable to move, Lt. Kevin Adam of the warden service said Friday.
Chandler said about 10 game wardens, two Maine Forest Rangers, Millinocket and Greenville firefighters, Greenville police, a camp owner at Nahmakanta Lake and several AT hikers responded to the rescue call.
“The AT is not like a gravel path,” Adam said. “It’s complicated, and when you’re taking people out on a litter, it’s physically demanding.”
The rescuers took turns carrying Yerike down the rugged trail since neither a Maine Forest Service helicopter nor LifeFlight could go to the area because of bad weather.
The 100 Mile Wilderness area is some of the most remote territory in Maine, connecting Monson to Abol Bridge in Baxter State Park.
“We were really shook up,” Cohen recalled Friday afternoon. She said she had met Yerike on the Appalachian Trail in New York during a heat wave this summer but didn’t realize it was he who had collapsed on the trail Thursday until she returned with the wardens. Yerike was a positive person and did everything he could to cheer her up and encourage her, she said.
Beitelman said he was surprised that the wardens were unable to treat Yerike medically and had to wait for an emergency medical technician to arrive at the scene.
“They did a stellar job getting help to Robert,” he said, but added it would have been better if they had been trained to help him medically.
“You never really expect to be at the end of another hiker’s life,” Beitelman said.