You may have heard of it as many different names, but if you want to learn practical, well researched information on suspension trauma than you have before, take an hour and watch the video below. In it, Dr. Roger Mortimer, gives his take on what is actually happening to people who are hanging in a harness and why he thinks they sometimes die because of it. I had the pleasure of seeing Dr Mortimer present this at the International Technical Rescue Symposium. He’s a great great presenter without any qualification. As a doctor explaining medical stuff to a lay crowd, he’s surely the best in the business. He’s also a cave rescue guy and has spent his share of time in a harness.
Someone who was left hanging:
The readers digest version of the big points:
– Death from hanging in a harness is caused by lack of victim movement, not the amount of time they are hanging. Have the victim move their legs if they are able.
– Tell the hospital the victim has rhabdomyolysis and to prepare to treat them for that. It will save a lot of time and confusion on both sides.
– It’s okay to lay the victim down after they have been removed from rope.
Here is a link to the paper published in the Wilderness Medical Society Journal:
Depending on which news report you read, a 22 year old female either “took a tumble” or fell 90 feet and suffered neck and back injuries as well as severe leg injuries after she fell from Balls Falls and had to be airlifted to a hospital. The technical rescue team decided against a rope system and instead carried her up the trail because of “poor lighting and safety issues.” HERE
Here is a brief video of the falls:
If I fell from the top of that, I’d call it more than a tumble! While I was obviously not on the scene, it strikes me as odd that lighting is a reason to call off the possibility of a rope rescue. It speaks of the need to both equip your team to operate at night as well as train at night.While cliche, it is true that rescues don’t always happen when it is 72 and sunny.
And from just upstream of the Balls Falls rescue, was a group of three 20 year old guys climbing on the rocks beneath Horseshoe Falls in Niagara. Police rappelled 50 feet down to the group, busted them for disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, and possession of a controlled substance. A threefor while on rope! HERE
Busy times on rope for our neighbors to the north!
Lastly, a lucky close call for a couple and there dog in Northwest Spokane, WA after they’re Toyota pick flew 50 feet down an embankment and their trailer catapulted a few hundred feet further down the hill. It looks like Spokane Fire did a steep slope evacuation to get the patients up the hill. Do you have your game plan down for how your department does slope evacuations?
If you remember the “Real Deal” rescue that occurred at Wallace Falls in Northeast Washington that we covered here a couple of weeks ago, then you will surely be interested in the follow up on it with an in depth look at thee operation. The article is written by Tom Vines and was brought to our attention by Mike Forbes from Spokane Fire.
2070 miles separate Wallace Falls in Washington State and Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. What brings these two closer together is that each of these falls were the scene of a rope rescue within 24 hours of each other.
The rope rescue at Niagara Falls was performed after the victim attempted suicide by jumping off of the 180′ tall falls. The man waded ashore after eddying out and was hauled topside in a Stokes basket attached to the bucket of a Tower Ladder which was used as a high point. The picture below shows the 2:1 system that appears to be operated from within the bucket. No belay line noted, however, there does appear to be a prussik on either side of the pulley that would theoretically catch the load should one of the legs of the 2:1 fail.
More pictures and an accompanying article can be found here:
The second and, in my opinion, more dramatic happened at the lip of the 270′ tall Wallace Falls in Washington state. A 13 year old was swept to the edge of the precipice after losing his footing on a smaller 10′ waterfall that was upstream.
According to the article, he was clinging to the rocks under an overhang on the side of the river opposite the hiking trail, which precluded use of a helicopter hoist operation. Apparently rappelling to the location was a dangerous prospect as well. I’m paraphrasing, but the article references a main line failure caused by rubbing on the rocks, with a subsequent successful belay line arrest. Hairy stuff indeed. Better still is the video shot by one of the Snohomish SAR volunteers. Take a look at that water and then remember that it is only feet away from the edge of a 270′ drop.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/42556237 w=500&h=281]
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