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Rangers, Scouts And Others Rescue Seriously Ill Hiker

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

National Park News

On the afternoon of July 26th, North Manitou Island ranger Luke Hunter received a cell phone call from a hiker reporting that a man was unconscious and having a seizure about six miles from the ranger station on the west side of this 15,000-acre Lake Michigan island. The reporting party, Trent Faulkner, a solo hiker not affiliated with the group, said that the victim had been actively seizing and vomiting for over three hours. Hunter, a medical first responder, gave the caller some first aid directions, then notified park dispatcher Tom Davison, who requested assistance from the Coast Guard Air Station at Traverse City. Davison also notified ranger Pat Reimann, who was on backcountry patrol on the island about four miles from the scene. A Coast Guard HH65-C Dolphin helicopter flew to the island. The crew was unable to locate the victim from the air, though, so flew to the ranger station to pick up Hunter. They soon found the victim, but couldn’t land due to thick forest cover. Finding a clearing along the west shore, the helicopter landed and dropped off Hunter and a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, who ran about a mile to the victim, 42 year-old Richard Nielson of Grosse Isle, Michigan. Nielson was unconscious and was being assisted by Faulkner, some Boy Scouts who were hiking with Nielson, and another group of passing hikers. Hunter and the rescue swimmer began treatment and applied oxygen and were preparing to carry Nielson out just as Reimann arrived. One of the hikers identified himself as an Eagle Scout and suggested building a litter to carry Nielson, so a makeshift stretcher using hiking sticks and clothing was built by the Scouts and Nielson was carried a half-mile through the brush to the waiting helicopter.  Nielson was flown to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, where he was admitted, treated, and released. Faulkner later had this to say about the rescue:  “I was impressed with how a group of different people were able to form a team and work efficiently. The Coast Guard swimmer was the leader and primary caregiver. The rangers knew the lay of the land and provided accurate directions (they were absolutely correct about the bushwhack being the most efficient way to get to the open field). The Eagle Scout had the leadership skills to step up and recommend building the litter (I also credit the swimmer for being open to the idea). The rangers, swimmer, and the college kids did all the carrying.”   Faulkner and the other hikers who assisted in the rescue were later presented with National Park Service search and rescue award pins and letters of commendation from the park superintendent.



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