By Heidi Zemach for SCN
The Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department helped to rescue a 59-year old woman from Great Britian who fell and injured herself Sunday afternoon, July 21st, while hiking two and a half miles up the Harding Icefield trail in Kenai Fjords National Park.
After establishing a base camp at the base of the trail, a four-member rescue team consisting of Assistant Fire Chief Stephen Krouse, Lieutenant Lisa Bildeaux, and firefighters Travis Hoogland and Nick Zwiefel climbed the trail after other hikers called and reported to police that a woman had fallen on the trail, and was apparently injured and unconscious.
The Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SVAC), and Alaska State Troopers also assisted in the seven-hour rescue.
Kathleen Simon, who was climbing up with a group of other tourists, apparently lost her footing, and slid off the trail a short ways, and in doing so dislocated her shoulder and also bruised and scraped up her knees, Krouse said. When they found Simon, she was in good condition, but hypothermic on the windy glacier hillside. The team had stabilized her, packaged her up on a gurney, and covered her with blankets and some of their own jackets, he said.
The rescue team then had to carry her some 1000 feet farther up the trail to a site that they had scouted out, and felt was a suitable landing zone. It was both large enough, and flat enough for an Alaska State Trooper rescue helicopter to land safely after they had relayed the coordinates to the troopers. They were initially a little concerned about the high winds, and the danger they posed, and the fact that Simon was hypothermic.
The Troopers’ HELO 2 A-star American Euro copter, located in Anchorage, responded to the call, and it arrived several hours later, and brought the patient to an assigned landing area at the base of the mountain. She was then taken by SVAC to Seward Providence Medical & Care Center. The entire operation was concluded at 10:30 p.m. Simon was flown to an Anchorage hospital for surgery at around three p.m. Monday afternoon.
There are about two or three rescues a year in the Kenai Fjords National Park, and probably one rescue every year, or every other year involving tourists falling on the Harding Ice field trail, he said. As rescues go, it was a relatively easy one. The most difficult part for the rescuers was packing their substantial loads of gear, including plenty of water, and medical supplies up the steep mountain trail and all of its switchbacks, which took them a little time, and then packing the victim up to the helicopter.
Simon was physically fit for her age, as were the other hikers in the group, but she probably just lost her footing, he said: It’s a rocky trail. Not the easiest, but it is a nice trail.”