Second Rescue in SSAR’s Final Days with County

By Jill Jones
Gold Canyon Today

Superstition Search and Rescue (SSAR) has been busy in their final days associated with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) with yet another rescue on Saturday, November 28, 2009; their second rescue in a week.

SSAR received a call around 4 p.m. Saturday to assist a 53-year-old woman who was injured while hiking with her husband in the Superstition Mountains. Bob and Linda McLaughlin of Peoria, AZ set out for a day hike around at 11:00 a.m. and were about four-and-a-half miles in when the injury occurred.

The couple was working their way down the North side of Minor’s Summit when Linda slipped and fell. It was later determined that she had broken her ankle. With the help of her husband the woman managed to hobble her way back up the summit where they were able to get a cell phone signal to call for help.

SSAR immediately sent their “hasty team” into the Minor’s Summit area to locate the couple. A hasty team is the “first responders” for SSAR. “They are our eyes and ears in the field to get the ball rolling,” explained SSAR Commander Robert Cooper.

A hasty team normally goes in to locate victims with just a radio and minimal equipment and then radios back to other team members to bring whatever additional supplies are determined to be needed once the situation has been assessed. In this situation however, SSAR already knew they would be dealing with an ankle injury so they were prepared with the supplies they would need in order to provide initial treatment for the hiker’s injured ankle.

After the hasty team located the couple and provided initial treatment of the woman’s injuries, they then radioed for a ground team to bring a “stokes basket” so the patient could be packaged for safe, manual transportation down the mountain.

The stokes extraction required the SSAR team to maneuver up, and then down, four miles of rocky terrain and narrow paths with trail-edge drop offs in the cold and rain, while carrying the stokes basket. The stokes basket is a metal, wire or plastic litter with sides designed to safely transport a patient.

Carrying a victim or patient in a stokes basket requires a team of six individuals who have to be able to carry the basket while walking forwards, sideways and backwards and simultaneously bushwhacking though vegetation, including cactus – a very tricky and prickly situation. Since the patient is carried over the trail, rescuers are relegated to having to maneuver the rough terrain on the edges of the trail while carrying the patient.

“This is what we train for and this is what we do best, assisting those in need so they can return home to their families,” said Cooper.

While these may be the final days of SSAR’s 30 years of working in conjunction with PCSO; SSAR will still be active in the area and can be called directly for assistance 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week beginning December 1, 2009 at 480-620-0299.

Going forward, SSAR will be working in conjunction with the Apache Junction Police Department in developing an Urban Search and Rescue Team in addition to continuing to provide their award-winning wilderness search and rescue services.

Superstition Search and Rescue (SSAR) is a volunteer service organization that assists individuals who experience wilderness-related problems in the Superstition Wilderness Area. The members are highly skilled in wilderness first-aid, technical rescue and orienteering who do not charge for these life-saving services. They sacrifice their personal time and resources to assist those in need.

SSAR relies on donations from individuals and/or corporations and fund-raising activities to support the training and equipment they need to continue serving individuals who find themselves in a situation in which they require assistance. They need these all-important donations now, more than ever. All donations are tax deductible and no matter what the amount, provide the group with valuable equipment and resources necessary to do their job – saving lives.

If you would like to donate to the unsung heroes of Superstition Search & Rescue, please send a check or money order payable to SSAR, P.O. Box 1123, Apache Junction, AZ 85217. For more information on SSAR or to make an online donation visit SSAR at http://www.superstitionsar.org.

Injured Woman Rescued From Cliff

By Jill Jones
Pinal County Today

Superstition Search and Rescue (SSAR) assisted in rescuing Lisa Alexander, 34, of Chandler from the face of a cliff north of Superior where Ms. Alexander and some friends were rock climbing and rapelling on Sunday, November 22, 2009.

SSAR was asked to assist PCSO and Superior Fire with the intricate technical rescue just north of the Superior tunnel in a location known as “the ponds.” This particular area is popular with hikers and rapellers and is known for the waterfalls that appear in times of heavy rain.

Ms. Alexander had reportedly shattered her knee cap while climbing, and according to SSAR Commander Robert Cooper “was in extreme pain.” Superior Fire moved her to a safe location on some cliffs in order to treat her injuries and then looked to SSAR to assist in transporting her off the cliff. While SSAR would normally employ a technical rope rescue; they chose not to in this particular situation due to the possibility of falling rocks, which could cause a hazard to cars on the road below and thereby necessitate closing down U.S. 60 for approximately two hours.

It was determined that a “short haul” helicopter rescue was called for, which required the assistance of DPS Rangers. In a short haul rescue, a trained rescuer accompanies the patient who is loaded into a nylon bag that is attached to a 100 to 200 foot rope. Then, both the patient and rescuer are attached to the helicopter and ride beneath the chopper to a safe area in which they can be put down.

Ms. Alexander was lifted off the cliff and flown to the safety of the Oak Flats campgrounds where an ambulance then took her to an area hospital.

“SSAR trains regularly in this highly critical skill,” explains Cooper, who added, “DPS maintains currency with 40 rescuers throughout the state for quick response and SSAR has the honor to hold eight of these positions.”

“We received an update on Lisa and her knee,” said Cooper. “It did shatter and they were only able to put back together 2/3rds of it. Ouch!”

Ms. Alexander will most likely be including her rescuers in noting what she is thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Superstition Search and Rescue (SSAR) is a volunteer service organization affiliated with, but not funded by, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office that assists individuals who experience wilderness-related problems in the Superstition Wilderness Area. SSAR is made up of approximately 25 volunteers who are highly skilled in wilderness first-aid, technical rescue, orienteering and tracking who sacrifice their time and personal resources to assist those in need.

SSAR relies on donations from individuals and/or corporations and fund-raising activities to support the training and equipment needed to continue serving individuals who find themselves in a situation in which they require assistance. All donations are tax deductible and no matter what the amount, provide the group with valuable equipment and resources necessary to do their job – saving lives.

If you would like to donate to the unsung heroes of Superstition Search and Rescue, please send a check or money order payable to SSAR, P.O. Box 1123, Apache Junction, AZ 85217. For more information on SSAR or to make on online donation visit SSAR at http://www.superstitionsar.org.