Army helicopter helps rescue hiker at Baxter State Park

Posted June 12, 2014, at 11:08 a.m.
Last modified June 12, 2014, at 10:49 p.m.
Maine Army National Guard medical and helicopter personnel helped rescue a hiker at Baxter State Park on Tuesday.
Courtesy of Maine Army National Guard
Maine Army National Guard medical and helicopter personnel helped rescue a hiker at Baxter State Park on Tuesday.

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BAXTER STATE PARK, Maine – A hiker was rescued by helicopter and taken to a Bangor hospital after encountering several medical problems while hiking Mount Katahdin on Tuesday afternoon, officials said Thursday.

The Maine Army National Guard medevac team flew the hiker, identified only as a 23-year-old male, to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor after Baxter State Park rangers determined he needed immediate treatment.

The man, who was suffering from hypothermia, bleeding and neurological issues, was admitted to the hospital in stable condition, Maine Army National Guard officials said.

The patient was near Chimney Pond, which made landing an aircraft unlikely, so he was lifted out of the park with the medevac hoist system and evaluated by an on-board National Guard medic, officials said.

This was the second helicopter rescue in Baxter State Park this month. A 53-year-old hiker who injured her leg was rescued by a Maine Forest Service helicopter June 4.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ron Ireland, the commanding pilot handling Tuesday’s mission, said the flight went well. Army officials received the call from Baxter State Park at about 3 p.m. Despite lousy flying weather at the base in Bangor, they were airborne at 4:10 p.m. and arrived at the site about 4:40 p.m., he said.

Most of the 70 minutes in pre-flight was spent assembling a flight crew, plotting the mission and getting mission approval from supervisors – pretty quick timing, considering how the reserve’s many deployments leave fewer helicopters on base these days. Ireland knew almost immediately the landing zone over the injured hiker was too small.

“It was a pretty tight [landing zone]. It was just small. You can’t put a square peg that big in that small of a round hole,” he said.

The pickup went smoothly, despite the threat of erratic wind conditions that could threaten the helicopter’s stability.

“Chimney Pond is in a bowl,” Ireland said. “If winds are coming from a certain direction, they will work around the bowl and you get lots of headwinds and tailwinds and the potential for a lot of turbulence.”

The successful mission “just emphasizes the importance of these aircraft, the importance of that dual purpose,” Ireland said. “We can do the federal mission and help out with the state mission, like natural disasters that happen in the states and these medevac situations.”

Ireland said his unit typically handles one to three missions of this type annually, at places like Baxter, Acadia National Park, and over the Appalachian Trail.

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