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