Wednesday, Jul 6, 2011
Late on the night of June 21st, Midwest Regional Ozark Communications Center received a report of a man who fell over a cliff with his horse. Rangers from the Middle Buffalo District responded along with deputies from Searcy County Sheriff’s Office and an ALS unit from North Arkansas Regional Medical Center. They found a heavily-intoxicated and seriously-injured 69-year-old man who, along with the horse he’d been riding, had fallen over a 25’ cliff in the Woolum “High Bank” area, a stretch of narrow road that parallels the Buffalo River near a vertical embankment directly above the river. Rescuers were lowered to the patient, and found him partially submerged in the river, suffering from a large, open head wound and a pneumothorax. They stabilized him, packaged him for a vertical haul, and conducted a technical raising operation using an ambulance as the primary anchor. From the road, the patient was transported via ground ambulance to a nearby helipad. He was airlifted by an Air Evac helicopter to a treatment facility in Springfield, MO, where he was listed in critical condition. The patient’s horse was apparently uninjured and stood knee-deep in the river watching as the rescue scene unfolded. Ranger Justin Gibbs was Incident Commander. Throughout the rescue, a female companion of the patient, also on horseback and also heavily intoxicated, interfered with the operation, endangering both the patient and rescuers by riding her horse back and forth over the anchor ropes used to raise the litter. Because all rangers and deputies on scene were engaged in the rescue itself, they were unable to place the woman into custody at the time. Shortly before the raising operation was complete, she left the scene on horseback. Two days later, Rangers Tracy Whitaker and Cody Smith tracked her down in a local town and cited her for disorderly conduct.