Sunday, April 6, 2014

Multiagency Rescue at Lake Powell

Multiagency Rescue at Lake Powell

Saturday April 5th, the Kane County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue team (KCSAR) participated in a mutual aid rescue with Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, (GCNRA),  Coconino County Search and Rescue, (CCSAR), and the Utah Highway Patrol Aero Division.

At around 7am, a male individual from Grand Junction Colorado began climbing Gregory Butte which is located at buoy 26 in Last Chance Bay At Lake Powell.  A little after 9am, he was over 500 feet up the cliff face when an anchor that he had placed in the rock failed causing him to fall approximately 30 feet.   His fall was stopped by his previous anchor and rope leaving him hanging on the cliff face by his harness.  When the first anchor came out of the sandstone face, it also caused a large slab of stone to break free which fell hitting him in the head, severely injuring the climber.  It is very possible that his life was saved by the use of a proper helmet.

His friends, who were watching him from a boat below, had to drive to an area where they could get cell phone coverage.  The call went to Glen Canyon Dispatch who contacted the Kane County Sheriff's Office Dispatch center with a request for help believing the accident location was in Kane County.

That morning Kane County Search and Rescue was already involved in a joint training in Kanab Utah with Coconino County Search and Rescue, and a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter.  When the call came in, the combined teams began working on a rescue plan.  It was later determined that the location of the incident was actually in San Juan County.  After consulting with San Juan County's Sheriff and Search and rescue, they requested that Kane County continue with the operation because we were closer and had resources ready to respond.

Two GCNRA rescue personnel had already responded by boat and helicopter to the scene.  UHP pilot Shane Oldfield and technical flight officer Sgt. Ryan Bauer transported three KCSAR rescue personnel and gear from Kanab to the top of Gregory Butte where they joined with the GCNRA team.  A team from CCSAR as well as additional personnel from KCSAR responded by vehicle to the Page Arizona Airport where they could be be picked up by the UHP helicopter and transported to the scene if needed.

The five man team at Gregory Butte was able to drill and set anchors on top of the Butte.  A GCNRA medic was lowered to the injured climber.  He was able to secure the climber and both were then raised back to the top by the other four rescuers.  The injured  climber was transported by the UHP helicopter to a waiting medical helicopter from Guardian Air out of Page Arizona.  He was then transported to the Page hospital. 

All rescue crews then returned to their respective areas.  This is another great example of the collaborative efforts and relationships that have been build and fostered between the agencies of Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, Utah Highway patrol and our Federal Partners at Lake Powell. Thanks to all involved in this successful and safe rescue.


Additional information:
The 30 year old injured climber was flown to Flagstaff Arizona Hospital, and not to Page Arizona as the original post stated.  He is currently in ICU but expected to recover.  His injuries were serious and it will take time to heal.
The climber and two friends had been camping at the base of Gregory Butte since Thursday April 3rd.  The individual had completed a couple of previous shorter climbs on Gregory Butte Thursday and Friday.  He is considered an expert climber.  Climbing in the sandstone like he was doing is considered to be one of the most dangerous kinds of climbing next to climbing without safety equipment.   

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