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Hiker airlifted off Grizzly Peak

It took two helicopters and ground teams from multiple agencies to safely rescue a fallen hiker from Grizzly Peak Sunday afternoon.

After an initial report about 11:15 a.m., Ashland Fire-Rescue and Mercy Flights responded to the summit, where a female hiker traveling with a group reportedly had fallen 25 feet, said Matt Freiheit, battalion chief with Ashland Fire-Rescue.

It was difficult to determine exactly where the hiker and her group were, Freiheit said, so the agencies reached out to others in the area for help. They enlisted two Oregon Department of Forestry engines that were in the area and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, which dispatched a Search and Rescue aircraft. Personnel from Lake Creek Fire District and Fire District 3 were also notified and supported the rescue.

Jackson County Fire District 5 covered fire response for the city of Ashland while Ashland Fire’s engines were occupied with the rescue.

“It was certainly warranted,” said Sgt. Shawn Richards with the sheriff’s office of the multi-agency response. “When there’s a pretty severe injury, the number one goal is to get that patient to advanced medical care as soon as possible.”

Freiheit said such a large and varied group of responders was called because officials couldn’t be sure whether an airlift would be possible. If not, crews would need to carry the injured hiker out of the area.

“If the helicopter couldn’t land it takes quite a few people to carry someone out, especially in that terrain, with that distance,” Freiheit said.

Lots of visitors on the trail that day tried to help the hiker, he said, including a trauma surgeon who helped treat her injuries while waiting for the crews to arrive.

When the search and rescue helicopter reached the area where the hiker was, Freiheit said, the crews conducted a short-haul rescue to bring her to where the Mercy Flights aircraft had landed, farther up the slope. She was then transported to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

The patient reached the hospital, Freiheit said, two hours and 10 minutes after the 911 call. Responding agencies declined to release the hiker’s name or condition, citing medical privacy rules.

“For where it was located, that was a very good response because it took quite a bit of time just to reach the patient,” he said.

Favorable weather conditions helped the transport, he said. If weather had been poor or the incident had occurred at night, a walkout operation would have likely added two hours to the rescue mission.

“A lot of communities don’t have that resource, so we’re very fortunate,” Freiheit said.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been on Grizzly Peak,” he said, adding that Ashland Fire-Rescue is called out to rescue hikers only a couple of times a year, usually during warmer months.

“Everybody involved did a good job,” Richards said. “We’re just thankful that it all came together and she got the treatment that she needed.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

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