BWCA rescue may lead to ticket
Ely Echo staff report, 6/15/2013
A rescue operation in the BWCA that was assisted by someone who had a remote control radio helicopter may create some legal problems and perhaps a wilderness violation and ticket.
On Monday, June 10 Vicky Gray, of Florida, was camping on Agnes Lake, south of Lac la Croix, fell and broke her leg. Members of her group brought a tent to her location and set it up to get her into shelter.
The group then checked other campsites and found other campers that had a "Spot" Locator Emergency Beacon. That beacon was activated to send the first distress signal at about 7:30 p.m.
In an effort to get further information out about the emergency, one of the group's members used a remote control helicopter he had brought with him to which he likes to attach a camera and take air photos.
He rigged the helicopter with a cell phone and then typed in a text message, hit send, flew the helicopter up to about 1000 feet where the phone was able to get a signal out to cell towers located outside the Wilderness boundaries.
While the intentions were good, it doesn't exempt someone from the rules governing the BWCA, including not allowing motorized or mechanical equipment.
Kawishiwi District Ranger Mark Pentecost said, "Any kind of powered device is generally on the wrong side of things in the wilderness."
The helicopter trick worked and the St. Louis County Volunteer Rescue Squad was sent in by canoe to reach the victim during the night. The Forest Service was contacted at about 10 p.m. and arrangements were made for the Forest Service to fly one of their Beaver float planes into Agnes Lake to pick the victim up in the early morning hours.
Rescue Squad members making the trip had to navigate the Nina Moose River, Nina Moose Lake, make several portages through knee-deep mud and then cross into Agnes Lake.
Rescue crews began their insertion at about midnight and reached the victim about 4:45 a.m.
The rescue crew paddling into Agnes consisted of Jon Olson, Jake Stachovich, Arden LaBonte and Alex Messenger.
Upon arrival the rescue squad team determined the victim did have a broken leg that was not splinted. A splint was fashioned out of available materials. The victim found great relief from this and quickly fell asleep once the injury had been stabilized.
The float plane piloted by Pat Loe of Ely arrived on the scene at about 7:15 a.m. with two EMTs from Ely Ambulance service, Andy Gruis and Erik Thorpe.
All members of the rescue squad and EMTs were needed to maneuver the victim into the Beaver so as to not cause further injury. Once loaded the victim was quickly flown out to Ely where she was transported to the Hospital by the Ely Ambulance Service.
Olson said that trying to transport this victim out would have required excessive man power requiring at least 14 more rescue squad members into Agnes Lake due to the difficulties presented by extremely swamp and mud infested portages along with other hazards. It is estimated that it would have taken an additional 14 hours to hand carry the victim out.
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