BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, S.D. – Soldiers with the South Dakota Army National Guard assisted the National Park Service in the rescue of an injured hiker in Badlands National Park, near Interior, S.D., Thursday, June 7.
The Soldiers, using a UH-72 Lakota helicopter, conducted a cable-hoist extraction of a park visitor who was hiking, fell and was injured on Notch Trail, according to the National Park Service.
Dave Johnson, 57, from Audubon, Pa., was hiking alone when he ventured off the trail and slipped and slid into a crack. Park officials stated he started hiking at 7:30 a.m. and had been trapped and unable to get help until he was discovered by other park visitors at approximately 10:30 a.m. He was experiencing severe leg and back pain along with numerous cuts and scrapes.
Park rangers and the Interior Volunteer Fire Department were first on scene after hiking in about three quarters of a mile to find Johnson. Multiple agencies responded to the incident including Kadoka and Philip Ambulance Companies, Jackson County Sheriff’s officers and the South Dakota Highway Patrol.
The call for assistance to the South Dakota Army Guard came at about 11:30 a.m., after Park Service and emergency response personnel determined the safest and most appropriate method of rescue would be by helicopter. One of the deciding factors was the difficulty of bringing a litter down the wood/cable ladder that connects the upper and lower parts of Notch Trail, said Park Service officials.
This was the South Dakota Army Guard’s first live-rescue mission in the state with the new UH-72 Lakota helicopter, which was fielded in May 2011. The Guard, along with the National Park Service and other agencies, trained for this exact scenario about a week earlier.
“We trained for this type of scenario on May 30,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Frank, pilot-in-command. “That’s how important the interagency coordination and training is. The rescue mission went very smooth.”
The flight crew hoisted the patient out to a nearby parking lot where other agencies provided medical care before transferring him to Rapid City Regional Medical Center.
For the flight crew, the extraction was all just part of their mission. “This is what the Guard the does – help people,” said Army Staff Sgt. Anton Oerlline, a crew chief with the South Dakota Army Guard who was part of the mission. “The training we go through prepares us to be able to respond and assist to an emergency quickly and efficiently.”
The crew was glad they were able to assist with the mission.
“We were happy to be of assistance to the emergency crews on the ground and to help get the patient the care he needed,” said Frank.