Morning Report Excerpts - 2001 First Half
The Morning Report includes accidents and incidents in the National Park System. Here are some reports you might find interesting.
January 4, 2003 - Canyonlands NP (UT)
Larry Van Slyke, the park's chief ranger, retired on January 2nd after a long career with the NPS. The park is putting together a memory book for him and would appreciate any letters, photos, mementos or other items. Please send them to Adele Osusky, Canyonlands NP, 2282 S. West Resource Blvd., Moab, UT 84532. There's a great tribute to Larry in yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune, which can be found at the following web address:
[Glenn Sherrill, GLCA; Tom Vines, 1/3]
PARKS AND PEOPLE
Glen Canyon NRA (UT/AZ)
The park is seeking two protection rangers who are eligible for non-competitive reassignment and interested in a voluntary transfer to fill two permanent STF positions at Bullfrog. One will be in a work/pay status for ten months, the other for six months. The positions can be filled at the GS-5, GS-7 or GS-9 levels. The positions are primarily law enforcement and covered by 6c. Major duties include the entire range of visitor protection functions in a busy emergency services operation. EMT or higher certification is required at the GS-7 and GS-9 levels. Shared housing is available in a three-bedroom house for a minimal cost. Information is available at the park's personnel office at 520-608-6244.
[Mike Mayer, GLCA]
01-042 - Canyonlands NP (UT) - Assist; Falling Fatality
A 29-year-old woman fell about 90 feet while free solo climbing in Indian Creek Canyon near the park's Needles District around 5 p.m. on the afternoon of February 4th. Friends of the climber saw her fall and were able to call 911 via cell phone within about 10 minutes. The local sheriff's department asked the park for assistance. Needles District rangers Fred Patton, Michelle Busbee and Daniel Habig responded. Busbee and Habig were first on scene at 5:45 p.m. By that time, the woman had been pulseless for about 20 minutes and CPR was in progress. She was lowered to the road via a 400-foot belayed scree evacuation. She had sustained major head trauma in the fall and was pronounced dead at the scene by the flight nurse from St. Mary's CareFlight. [Daniel Habig, CANY, 2/7]
01-043 - Intermountain Region - Special Event: 2002 Winter Olympics
The Intermountain Region - Midwest Region incident management team (Denny Ziemann, IC) has been activated to provide coordination of NPS activities associated with the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The team will be organizing and positioning numerous NPS resources between now and the onset of the games next February. The team will establish mechanisms for recruitment in the near future and advertise them to employees. Updates will be available through the Morning Report and other sources. [Larry Frederick, IO, GLAC, 2/1]
01-081 - Glen Canyon NRA (AZ/UT) - Felony Arrest
Rangers and sheriff's deputies arrested Anthony Cox at a motel in Page, Arizona, on the afternoon of February 16th. Cox was wanted on an NPS warrant for disorderly conduct/lewd and obscene behavior. At the time of the arrest, Cox was in bed. Underneath the blanket was a loaded M-16 rifle with a laser sight; also found in the room were an Uzi submachine gun with a suppressor, an AR-15 rifle, and a Ruger .22 caliber pistol with a suppressor attached. Rangers notified the U.S. Attorney's Office and ATF subsequent to the arrest. They were instructed to seize any other Class III firearms in Cox's possession or storage. On February 22nd rangers and deputies seized a .50 caliber machine gun, two .30 caliber Browning machine guns, two Thompson .45 caliber submachine guns, an H&K MP5, an AK-47, a Mark II Sten gun, and over 13,000 rounds of ammunition, including armor piercing rounds. Felony charges are now pending with ATF. [Mike Mayer, Acting CR, GLCA, 2/28)
01-086 - Arches NP (UT) - Rock Fall; Employee Injuries
On March 7th, a large rock fall occurred during a technical rock rescue training session being conducted in the park. Seventeen people were attending the training. The rock, estimated to be between 30 and 40 feet long and weighing over one ton, fell nearly 300 feet from the top of a sandstone cliff. It struck a small protrusion near the beginning of its fall, causing a loud noise, then broke up on its way down. The noise alerted six people who were directly below, sitting down to take a lunch break. They scattered just before the rock hit the ground a few yards behind the lunch location and exploded.
Two park employees were injured. Andrew Fitzgerald was knocked to the ground by flying debris and suffered a head injury and multiple lacerations; Lee Kaiser, who was not among the six, injured his leg slightly while trying to get away from the flying rock. Fitzgerald was treated for his injuries, secured to a litter, lowered over the side of a 100-foot cliff to a second team, then transported a quarter-mile cross-country to a waiting ambulance. His injuries turned out to be relatively minor, and he was released from the hospital later that afternoon.
Rain had fallen off and on for several days prior to the training session. Examination of the release site at the top of the cliff revealed that a large sandstone flake had simply let go of the surrounding rock. The rain-weakened condition of the sandstone, an existing crack in the rock, and freeze-thaw conditions typical of late winter in the area are thought to have been the primary reasons for the natural release. The high-angle rock rescue training is a joint NPS - Grand County SAR session conducted annually before the visitor season begins. Those who were directly below the falling rock with Fitzgerald and therefore had a "near death experience" were Murray Shoemaker and Nathan Plants from Arches NP, Dan Habig from Canyonlands NP, and Bego Gerhart and Frank Mendonca of Grand County SAR. [Jim Webster, CR, ARCH, 3/10]
There is a new web-based activity called geocaching that has affected several National Park Service areas. The Ranger Activities Division asked Olympic NP SA Mike Butler to investigate. Here's his report:
Geocaching is an activity in which participants hide a cache and take a position at the location using a GPS receiver. The position is then published on the group's web site with an invitation to search for the "treasure." Caches often contain a notebook or log book and something the finder may take. The finder is asked to put another item in the cache for others to discover and will often report the find on the web site. Several caches have been found in National Park Service areas. The webmaster for the site (www.geocaching.com) has been contacted. He was very surprised that geocaching is illegal in NPS areas, and understood NPS concerns about the damage geocaching has and can cause to historic, archeological and natural sites. He agreed to work with the Service to discourage further geocaching activities in parks.
Two related activities were also discovered. Letterboxing (www.letterboxing.org) is a phenomenon similar to geocaching in that a player takes directions from a web site and uses those directions to find a hidden object. In letterboxing, the directions come in the form of a riddle and the hidden object is a stamp which the finder can use to stamp a piece of paper to prove that he has visited the site. The web site showed the location of at least two letterboxes in parks. The parks have been notified, but the Service has not yet contacted the webmaster or game managers.
The Degree Confluence Project (www.confluence.org) is another web-based activity where people try to visit various latitude and longitude integer degree intersections and report their findings on the web site. In this case, however, no objects are placed in the ground, and there are no apparent regulatory violations in areas where cross-country travel is allowed or where the confluence is not on a protected site. There has been no attempt to contact the project organizers. [Mike Butler, SA, OLYM]
01-144 - Zion NP (UT) - Rescue
A 15-year-old boy fell approximately 30 feet while attempting to descend Zion Canyon on the afternoon of April 11th. Rangers found that he'd suffered a compound ankle fracture, a separated shoulder, and other injuries. Park medics Cindy Purcell and Rick DeLappe reduced the separation while the SAR team rigged for a 600-foot technical scree evacuation to a landing zone prepared by the park helitack crew. The boy was flown to a regional medical center, where he is currently in stable condition. Twenty people were involved in the rescue. [Brent McGinn, ZION, 4/12]
01-151 - Zion NP (UT) - Multiple Rescues
Park staff conducted three rescues on Saturday, April 14th. At 9:30 a.m., two park teams were called out to rescue a group of visitors stranded on the "Subway" canyoneering route. A party of ten had begun a day trip on the route the previous day. After traveling about halfway into the slot cabin, they realized that they were unprepared for the technical and water obstacles that they were encountering. Eight of them decided to wait for rescue, while two others continued on. The two exited the drainage the next morning and contacted park dispatch. The rescue teams entered the upper and lower sections of the canyon, and the upper team contacted the group around 2 p.m. Members of the two teams assisted them through the remainder of the canyon, exiting around 8 p.m. There were no injuries. Ranger Cindy Purcell was ops chief.
While this rescue was underway, dispatch received a report that a person had fallen 100 feet while climbing off-trail near Emerald Pools. Responding rescue personnel found a 17-year-old boy with significant trauma injuries adjacent to the trail. He'd been climbing up from the lower pool to the middle pool when he pulled a rock loose and fell backwards. He was stabilized by park medic Rick DeLappe and Springdale EMS personnel, then carried on a litter to a waiting ambulance. The ambulance met a medivac helicopter about ten miles outside of the park and flew the boy to the UMC Trauma Center in Las Vegas. Ranger Ray O'Neil was ops chief on this incident.
While personnel were engaged in this operation, they found that the boy's 13-year-old brother, who had been climbing with him, had become stranded on a ledge. Park SAR team members rappelled down to the boy, secured him to a lowering system, then lowered him to the ground. He was uninjured. Ranger Scott Cooper was operations chief. [Chuck Passek, ZION, 4/15]
01-157 - Zion NP (UT) - Rescue
Four visitors entered the slot canyon on Pine Creek around 1 p.m. on April 22nd. None of them had a wet suit, and the only descending gear they had with them consisted of two lengths of webbing. After passing the second rappel, they realized that they were not equipped to continue down the canyon. One person was able to climb back up the canyon and alert a ranger. The park's SAR team responded, and team member Bo Beck rappelled about 100 feet down from the canyon rim to the stranded party. Each of the three people was then raised to the rim. There were no injuries. The leader of the group was cited for failing to obtain a canyoneering permit. Ray O'Neil was the ops chief for the rescue. [Chuck Passek, ZION, 4/23]
01-172 - Canyonlands NP (UT) - Mountain Biking Fatality
Willard Anderson, 44, of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, was killed while mountain biking on the remote White Rim Road in the park's Island in the Sky District on the evening of April 24th. Anderson was on a four-day mountain-biking trip with a group of eleven people, including his wife and two children. He was going downhill on Hardscrabble Hill when he evidently ran into a large boulder adjacent to a curve. There were no witnesses. When he was discovered by visitors, he was not breathing and had no pulse. Rangers and a county deputy recovered his body. An autopsy is being conducted, and an investigation is underway. Ranger Paul Downey was IC. [Steve Swanke, DR, CANY, 4/25]
01-215 - Zion NP (UT) - Hiking Fatality
Ten-year-old Michael Munoz of Las Vegas fell to his death on the evening of Sunday, May 13th. Munoz was hiking on the Canyon Overlook trail with family and friends during a rain and hail storm. The rain caused flash flooding, including a stream of water that cascaded across the trail. Initial reports are that Munoz and his brother were swept off the trail and over the edge while attempting to cross this stream. The younger brother got caught on a tree and was rescued, but Munoz fell about 250 feet down a steep slope and another 150 vertical feet in the slot canyon formed by Pine Creek. Park dispatch received the call just after 6 p.m. The park SAR team was immediately dispatched; the first ranger to arrive, a park medic, rappelled down into the canyon, located the boy, and determined that the fall had been fatal. Another rainstorm that swept through the area caused additional flash flooding and hampered recovery efforts. The boy's body was recovered around 11 p.m. [Aniceto Olais, CR, ZION, 5/14]
FIRE MANAGEMENT - Zion NP (UT)
The Telephone Canyon Fire was ignited by lightning on Sunday. It has burned less than an acre. It's expected to smolder and burn out over the next week and is being managed for resource benefits.
01-223 - Zion NP (UT) - Possible Falling Fatality
Penny Lewis, 37, of Beaumont, Texas, died while hiking in the park on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 16th. Lewis had been hiking with two companions in the Left Fork of North Creek, but left them to return to the trailhead. Two hikers found her lying motionless and unresponsive on the trail. One ran to the trailhead, stopped a passing motorist with a cell phone, and made a 911 call. A group of backcountry rangers who were on a training exercise in the area were dispatched to the scene. They found that Lewis had no vital signs and that she'd been in that condition for at least 40 minutes. Medical control at Dixie Regional Medical Center advised not to start resuscitation efforts due to the time that had elapsed with no vital signs. Investigators from the park and county sheriff's office determined that Lewis had gone off trail, then had attempted to descend back to the trail. In the process, she apparently fell about 50 feet down a steep slope. There were no witnesses. The investigation continues. [Ron Terry, ZION, 5/17]
01-239 - Arches NP (UT) - Search and Rescue
On May 25th, a group of 40 college students and professors from Juniata College in Pennsylvania went on a hike in a rugged backcountry section of the park. Several members of the group began exhibiting the symptoms of heat exhaustion following a climb out of the steep, 800-foot Colorado River canyon. The trip leader decided that the group could not descend back into the canyon because the route was too steep and exposed, so he lead them cross county to another canyon where descent was easier. More members of the group became ill from heat and lack of fluids, and two became lost. The leader made a 911 cell phone call at 12:30 p.m. and reported the group's situation.
A multi-agency search and rescue mission was launched which eventually involved 37 people from Arches and Canyonlands, St. Mary's Air Care, and Grand County SAR, EMS and sheriff's office. Although a number of the students were suffering from various degrees of heat exhaustion, they were able to walk out of the canyon under their own power. Three required rescue from the canyon, including one in serious condition who had to be medevaced by helicopter; all three were hospitalized. Searchers found the two missing people just as the last heat victim was evacuated from the canyon. The high temperature for the day was 99 degrees. The three students who were hospitalized were all released later that evening. [Jim Webster, CR, ARCH, 5/30]
01-246 - Glen Canyon NRA (UT/AZ) - ARPA Warrant Executed
Rangers led by criminal investigator David Sandbakken and special agent Todd Swain executed an ARPA-related search warrant on the morning of May 17th and seized artifacts from the premises of a hunting guide who is well know in the area. This action marked the culmination of a two-year-long investigation which also involved the park's archeologist. Charges are pending with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Details to follow. [Mike Mayer, ACR, GLCA, 6/1]
01-303 - Zion NP (UT) - Rescue
Park dispatch received a report of a man suffering from chest pains on the Lower Emerald Pools trail on the afternoon of June 20th. Park medics Rick DeLappe and Cindy Purcell administered advanced life support measures to the 56-year-old man. As he was being evacuated on a wheeled litter, he went into cardiac arrest, but respirations and pulse were restored through defibrillation. He was taken to a medevac helicopter, then flown to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George. He was in stable condition at the time of the report. Eighteen park personnel were involved in the rescue. [Chuck Passek, ZION, 6/21]
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