By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Moose Pass Volunteer Fire Department, Alaska State Troopers and Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corps personnel helped rescue an injured snow machine rider along the Primrose Trail at Lost Lake late Tuesday afternoon, Feb 5th. The 911 dispatch alerted State troopers who then alerted them at about 5:30 p.m., saying help was needed for a man with back and leg injuries.
“We responded with our rescue trailer and 12 people from Bear Creek Fire Department. Moose Pass (Fire Department) responded with six personnel,” said BCVFD Training Captain Jim Wiles. At the Primrose Trailhead we sent up a ‘hasty team,’ two riders on two sleds with a medical bag, who took off right after the pre-brief on the location, injuries, number of people.” They took their snow machine up the trail with radio communications. The injured man was located about nine miles in.
“The trail was in really bad condition. It was really icy, really bumpy, plus it was dark. It got dark really fast,” Wiles said. It’s dangerous terrain up there, requiring advanced riding skills, he added.
Meanwhile, the second rescue group, which had three people, prepared a second rescue sled, with additional medical gear, one capable of bringing the patient out. The equipment included an Evacu-U-Split, capable of immobilizing the entire body.
The victim, Thawatchai Labnonsang, 38, of Soldotna, did not appear to have received life-threatening injuries, but did have injuries sustained when he and his snow machine went over an embankment, a drop estimated to be about 40 feet, said Alaska State Trooper’s spokeswoman Megan Peters. He was carried out, stabilized and brought out on the sled to the Primrose Trail head, where an SVAC ambulance transported him to the closest hospital. He was later Medivaced to Anchorage. The two other riders with him were uninjured.
It was the second backcountry rescue for BCVFD this winter, Wiles said. Last year there were none.
On December 29th 2012, Bear Creek and Moose Pass rescued another injured snow machiner who had crashed into a tree along the Primrose Trail, said Peters. After Kevin Cabana, 19 was injured, his friend had to drive several miles to get cell reception and call for assistence. A Life-Med flight was requested, but was unable to respond due to weather conditions. But Helo-1, the powerful state trooper helicopter based in Anchorage, did manage to make it on scene, and fly him out to a hospital. Last night’s weather conditions, such as its low ceiling in that location, did not make a helicopter rescue possible, Peters said.
The state troopers are much appreciative of the well-trained local volunteer help they can receive for such back-country searches and rescues, Peters said. But Cpt. Wiles expects that the number of calls for help will increase. In addition to the dangers of the terrain in that area, today snow-machiners don’t just sit down and drive along the trail much anymore, he said. They like to stand as they ride and do tricks like speeding up, and jumping their much faster, lighter performance machines 60-100 feet off steep ridges. As the technology advances, horsepower increases, and machine suspensions allow them to do more, riders take greater risks, he said.