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Rescuers get injured woman out of mountains

Jul 19, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Search-and-rescue crews retrieved a New York woman who was injured during a hike with her husband near Gannett Peak.

"She was brought into Lander at about 2:30 this morning," Fremont County Sheriff's Capt. Ryan Lee said Wednesday. "I know they stopped at the Lander hospital but am not sure of her conditions at this time or if she's been taken to another facility."

According to the sheriff's office dispatch log, authorities received information at 3:03 p.m. Tuesday about an emergency alarm locator that had been activated three times near Klondike Lake south of Gannett Peak in the Shoshone National Forest.

Lee said the victim's husband activated the alarm device, which is a satellite messenger that can dispatch emergency responders to the GPS location.

"We received the coordinates of the emergency. However, it took some time to actually locate the victim due to the extreme country they were in," Lee said.

He said the couple was reportedly attempting to traverse a boulder field when the 36-year-old woman received an open compound fracture to her femur, resulting in shock and severe blood loss.

Lee described the area as steep terrain and near Gannett Creek. It's about 26 miles west of Crowheart near Gannett Peak, which is the highest point in the state at 13,809 feet.

Lee said the sheriff's office coordinated the rescue mission with the use of a Sublette County Search and Rescue helicopter and professional mountain climbers associated with the Lander Search and Rescue division.

Because of weight concerns with the helicopter, Lee said the seven-member crew was flown into the area in three separated trips. Once they arrived, they launched ground and air searches throughout the evening.

"The crews located the victim just before dark last night and then were able to get to her and assess her injuries," he said.

He said the woman was found to be in serious condition and crews "went into action to save her life."

"It took the rescue crew almost four hours in the dark to traverse a boulder field and a river, in what is being described as an extremely technical and dangerous extraction, to the awaiting air ambulance," Lee said in a news release.

Lee said the difficult terrain made it impossible to land or hoist the victim from the area, and she had to be carried by hand at elevations near 10,000 feet.

"It took several hours to get her packed up because of the area," he said.

The Riverton-based Classic Lifeguard Air Ambulance flew as far into the area as possible late Tuesday by the use of night vision and awaited the rescuers, Lee said.

Lifeguard's paramedic took over care of the woman, and she was airlifted to Lander.

Given the danger of flying at night, Lee said crew members spent the night in the area and were airlifted out Wednesday. By 11 a.m. Wednesday, the rescuers were in Lander and the mission was complete, he added.

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