Tip Top Search and Rescue performs missions
by Tip Top Search and Rescue
August 19, 2011
At approximately 1:00 P.M. on the 10th of August, the Sublette County Sheriff's office received a call from a climbing party near the summit of Gannett Peak, which is the highest point in the state of Wyoming, at 13,804'. The reporting party stated that one person from their group had fallen from a point near the summit and that he had slid down the North East face of Gannett. According to the witnesses, the subject had lost his ice axe while sliding down the steep snow covered slope towards a large cliff band that separates the upper part of the peak from the Gooseneck Glacier. Since the snow field gets much steeper near the cliff band the reporting party had lost site of the subject while he was sliding and they did not know where he was or if he was able to self arrest somewhere below their vantage point.
Tip Top Search and Rescue was paged and the reporting party was put on a conference call with Jason Ray who gathered critical information about the missing person. TTSAR responded to the airport where Jim Mitchell, Emergency Management Coordinator, and Leanne Rellstab set up an incident command post to monitor and keep in contact with the crew during the rescue. TTSAR members Jason Ray, Milford Lockwood and Tony Chambers loaded rescue gear into the Sublette County Contract Helicopter and departed for Gannett Peak at 2:24 P.M. Upon arrival at the scene, TTSAR was able to see a slide path from the ridge line on Gannett at 13,781' directly into the cliff band above the Gooseneck Glacier. After a short aerial search, the missing climber was spotted near the top of the cliff band at 13,454' (See Photo #1). The climber appeared to be unresponsive to the helicopter crew, but his condition was still unknown. TTSAR performed several reconnaissance loops before deciding that the safest and quickest way to access the subject was by using the short haul technique where a person is inserted to the site by a 100-foot rope that is attached to the belly of the helicopter. After establishing a landing zone at the toe of the Dinwoody Glacier at 10,800', the helicopter was rigged for short haul (See Photo #2), and a check flight was done to make sure that the weather conditions were within the parameters of a safe short haul mission. Once established that the mission could be done safely, the helicopter pilot, John Ruhl, inserted Jason Ray to the site while Tony Chambers spotted from the helicopter and Milford Lockwood managed the landing zone.
Upon arrival at the scene at 3:45 P.M. it was determined that Don Scott, a 63-year-old Boise man, was deceased. Since the climber fell into Fremont County, the mission was a joint effort with Fremont County Search and Rescue and Tip Top Search and Rescue. Once the subject was determined to be deceased, the Fremont County coroner requested that the TTSAR crew fly to Lander and make a plan for an appropriate extraction of the subject. The Fremont County Coroner asked TTSAR to remove the subject the next morning using the short-haul technique. Upon arrival at the scene on the morning of the 11th, the TTSAR rescue crew found high winds building in the peaks and a helicopter recovery was ruled out for that day. The following day also displayed high winds in the upper elevations and so a recovery was set for Saturday morning. Saturday morning provided better weather and once on the scene the conditions proved to be safe for a helicopter recovery. Jason Ray and Forrest Maclean were inserted one at a time to the site via short haul technique by pilot John Ruhl while Tony Chambers spotted from the helicopter (See Photo #3). Once the subject was prepped for removal Forrest was extracted by the helicopter (See Photo #4) followed by Ray and the subject. The subject was then taken by helicopter to Crowheart where he was accepted by the Fremont County coroner.
At approximately 1:45 P.M. on the 14th of August, the Sublette County Sheriff's office received a call for a missing airplane near the Continental Divide area near Black Joe Lake. TTSAR was paged out and the Sublette County Contract helicopter piloted by John Ruhl took off from the Pinedale Airport at approximately 2:30 P.M. with TTSAR volunteers Eric Marincic, Tony Chambers and Shawn Streeter. At 4:35 in the afternoon the wreckage of a single engine fixed wing aircraft was spotted by the TTSAR crew and upon landing it was determined that there were no survivors. The incident has been under the control of Fremont County with the aid of the Sublette County contract Helicopter.
Since the 27th of July, the missing aircraft marked the 4th mission in which Fremont County utilized the Sublette County contract helicopter. Since coming on contract June 15th the helicopter has been used nine times for training, five times for search and rescue missions, twice utilizing the short haul team. The helicopter has also been used twice for other agencies including WYDOT's modifications to avalanche control devices on the top of Glory Bowl near Teton Pass. As of the afternoon of August 15th, the contract helicopter was in use again for a search and rescue mission in Duchesne County, Utah.