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Rescuers Save Injured Hunter from Freezing Night in Deer Creek
Sunday, October 29, 2023



First responders from Wood River Fire Rescue and other valley agencies rescued an injured hunter  Friday evening just before the sun set and temperatures plummeted into the teens.

Wood River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a report of a hunter with a leg injury just before 4 p.m. Friday afternoon. The hunter was in the vicinity of Panther Gulch, a steep draw with a mine in Deer Creek about six miles west of Highway 75.

Fire Chief Ron Bateman said he was not sure whether first responders were alerted by cell phone,  satellite phone or GPS monitor. But he said that there was no cell service at the area where the hunter was located.

“The brother of the hunter was able to make contact with us as we were heading out. He had gotten the grid coordinates and they proved invaluable to helping us locate the injured individual,” said Bateman.

Wood River Rescue established a command post a couple miles east of the incident to facilitate communication. And the department requested additional personnel and equipment from the Ketchum Fire Department and the Sun Valley Fire Department.

Rescuers also requested an air ambulance based on the rugged terrain and remoteness of the area.

Air St. Luke’s 2 arrived in the area just after 5 p.m. and was able to locate the hunting party at 5:12 p.m. He was a thousand feet above the valley floor in very steep terrain with a skiff of snow complicating movement and dark setting in.

The helicopter landed on the ridgeline above the patient, and the helicopter team was able to package the patient. A six-person rescue group arrived on foot a half-hour later with the heavy equipment necessary to evacuate the hunter, who couldn’t walk out on his own.

It was all hands-on deck as everyone was needed to move the patient up to the ridgeline where the helicopter waited with the help of a pulley system.

The helicopter departed with the patient enroute to the hospital just before 7 p.m.

“There were a lot of technical capabilities put to use and an amazing amount of physical fitness required that sometimes we take for granted,” said Bateman. “Having worked with fire and rescue departments elsewhere, I can assure you that’s not a given everywhere. Our guys also needed to know how to set up pulleys, treat the patient, read maps.”

While the rescue was ongoing, Ketchum Fire Department personnel scouted an alternative route out of the area. And, after the rescue group completed moving the patient, they climbed 700 feet to a logging road where all-terrain vehicles shuttled the crews black to the mouth of Panther Gulch. The command ended at 8:02 p.m.

“Some of the rescuers had the advantage of having been in that area—they may have hunted there or skied there. And that came into play because those with the Ketchum Fire Department knew to come in from a different direction with their utility vehicles to help get us out in a safer manner,” said Bateman. “Trying to come down that steep slope in the dark with some snow on the ground would have been precarious at best.”

Bateman said the success of the rescue was an incredible testament to the physical capability and technical skill of the responders, as well as the readiness of other departments to assist.

“Wood River was already on another EMS call when this emergency came in,” he said. “We had five people on duty and had three off-duty personnel respond in to assist. We could not have done this or done this well or done this safely without our partners.”

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