Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Two Weeks In The Adirondacks: 3 Dead; 15 Search and Rescues; 1 Remains Missing

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers respond to search and rescue incidents in the Adirondacks. Working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations and volunteer search and rescue groups, Forest Rangers locate and extract lost, injured or distressed people from the Adirondack backcountry.

What follows is a report, prepared by DEC, of recent missions carried out by Forest Rangers in the Adirondacks.

Essex County

Town of North Hudson
Call for Assistance: On June 27 at 11 am, the International Emergency Response Center (IERC) notified Ray Brook Dispatch of a personal locator beacon (PLB) activated by a U.S. Forest Service employee working in Essex County. PLBs use satellite communication to notify the IERC that the owner of the unit is in distress. Three Forest Rangers responded to the reported coordinates near Boreas Ponds, roughly 7.5 miles from a public highway. By 1:40 pm, the Rangers found the Forest Service employee, who had gotten his vehicle stuck on a forest road but had no radio or cell phone service. Once the vehicle was freed, the employee was able to drive without further assistance.

Town of Keene
Rescue: On July 2, eight DEC Forest Rangers were called to rescue a 33-year-old Fort Drum woman with a lower leg injury on Cascade Mountain Trail. A DEC Backcountry Steward had discovered the injured woman and determined that her extraction would require a significant number of rescuers due to steep, wet trail conditions. Once Rangers were on the scene, the complexities of the rescue required a helicopter extraction. Within two hours of the initial call, the subject was at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake.

Town of Keene
Search: On July 4 at 8:47 am, Ray Brook received a transferred call from Saratoga County 911 with a caller reporting her boyfriend was overdue from a hike. The caller was uncertain of the hiker’s intended itinerary, so a broad search of potential trailheads was conducted. Contact with family members determined that the individual was parked at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve parking area. The trail register indicated he intended to hike Dial and Nippletop mountains as a day hike. Rangers searched drainages and herd paths in the area of Dial and Nippletop throughout the night. New York State Police Lake Clear Aviation with a Forest Ranger crew flew over and searched these mountains with negative results. Investigations revealed the point last seen (PLS) was the summit of Nippletop Mountain at approximately 3:30 pm on July 3. On July 5, 18 Forest Ranger staff searched areas from Nippletop Mountain to Elk Lake and areas around the AuSable Lakes. State Police responded to the AuSable Club with a communications van and investigators worked with AT&T to attempt to get more information from the subject’s cell phone usage. State Police Aviation inserted Ranger crews into remote locations for search assignments. The rough terrain and topography required communication coordination via Ray Brook Dispatch on four radio towers on four peaks – Whiteface, Blue, Gore and Belfry. At 10:11 am, Rangers on an assignment north of Elk Lake located the man and reported that he was in good health and would be walking out with them to Elk Lake. He was out of the woods by 12:40 pm. The subject’s gear and level of preparedness lent to his withstanding two unplanned nights in the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area.

Town of Wilmington
Recovery: On July 3, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Essex County 911 requesting Forest Rangers respond to the Flume area on the AuSable River in the town of Wilmington for a missing individual. Upon arrival, Rangers worked with the Wilmington Fire Department to post lookouts and plan recovery efforts for a male from Ithaca who had been swimming in the flumes when he failed to resurface due to the high water, strong currents, and increased turbulence due to recent rain in the area. Forest Rangers specially trained in swift water rescues and the New York State Police Dive Team implemented a technical rope system across the flumes to support recovery efforts. Various techniques were used to locate the subject, including overnight lookouts, in the event the subject was pushed out of the currents and continued down river. On July 4 at 2:16 pm, the individual was located deceased by searchers and extricated from the gorge by a technical rope system.

Franklin County

Town of Saranac Lake
Search/Recovery: On July 6 at 7:59 am, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Franklin County 911 requesting assistance in attempting to locate a 66-year-old male who went kayaking the previous night on Kiwassa Lake. Rangers worked with the Saranac Lake Fire Department, New York State Police, NYSP Aviation Lake Clear, and a DEC Environmental Conservation Officer. Rangers initially completed land searches and interviewed campers in the area. Clues indicated that the individual was in the water and the New York State Police Dive Team responded. A Forest Ranger UAS (drone) was utilized in the search, as well. At 11:26 am on July 9, the NYSP Dive Team located the subject deceased and submerged using their side scan sonar.

Fulton County

Town of Caroga
Rescue: On July 1, DEC Forest Rangers Michael Thompson and John Ploss responded to a 911 call reporting a man with a head injury on Ferris Lake Wild Forest near Nine Corners Lake. As both Rangers worked with local rescue personnel to hike in, they discovered that the 19-year-old Johnstown man had suffered a significant injury from a 10-foot fall. The teen was jumping from one boulder to the next when he lost his balance and fell. The seriousness of his injuries required a helicopter Med Flight to a local hospital for further care.

Hamilton County

Town of Indian Lake
Rescue: On July 2, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Hamilton County 911 requesting Rangers to rescue a 22-year-old Oswego woman with a lower leg injury at the popular OK Slip Falls. Three Forest Rangers worked with local firefighters and emergency medical services to evacuate the woman. Once out of the woods, she was able to seek further treatment.

Town of Wells
Recovery: On July 3 at 2:55 pm, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the DEC Sacandaga Campground requesting emergency assistance for an unconscious male in the Sacandaga River. Ray Brook Dispatch advised the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and dispatched four Forest Rangers. Rangers responded with an airboat and began searching the river from the Northville boat launch. At 3:49 pm, the subject was located in a Class 3 river rapids area only accessible by water. Ranger Airboat AB-53 responded to the location, where Rangers entered the water and recovered the deceased subject. The 64-year-old male had gone tubing without a personal floatation device (PFD), along with five other people. After riding strong currents for approximately 300 yards, he attempted to get to shore but was swept under and did not recover.

Town of Blue Mountain Lake
Rescue: At 5:38 pm on July 9, a radio call came into DEC Ray Brook Dispatch from the Blue Mountain Summit Steward about a 16-year-old female with an ankle injury on the summit of Blue Mountain. The subject did not feel she could make it back down the mountain and asked for rescue assistance. Forest Ranger Jason Scott was dispatched to the scene. By using the radio transmitter maintenance road, Ranger Scott accessed the top of the mountain near the injured subject with his four-wheel-drive patrol vehicle. Ranger Scott gave medical attention to the hiker on scene. The hiker and three family members were transported to the trailhead, where Blue Mountain Lake Ambulance Squad was staged to provide additional medical care and transportation to the hospital.

Herkimer County

Town of Webb
Wildland Rescue: On June 28, Ray Brook Dispatch was notified by Herkimer County 911 that a hiker had suffered an ankle injury on Bald Mountain. A woman from South Carolina was near the summit and unable to proceed back to the trailhead. Rangers Bob Coscomb, Sarah Geesler, and Gary Miller assisted local fire and rescue to carry the woman off the mountain. Within two hours, she was transported to a waiting ambulance.

Lewis County

Town of Diana
Wildland Search: Forest Rangers continue to assist the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department in the ongoing search for 24-year-old Kenneth McCall, of Homer, near Jadwin Memorial State Forest. On June 26, five Rangers worked with two K-9 units from the NYS Federation of Search and Rescue Teams throughout the primary search area without success. DEC drones (unmanned aerial systems, or ‘UAS’) were used to intensely search areas of high probability from the air. To date, 11 Rangers have aided in the search over the last nine days.

Town of Greig
Rescue: At 11:01 am on July 7, Forest Rangers received a call direct from Lewis County 911 regarding a female thrown from her horse on the Otter Creek Horse Trails. The horse became spooked by a deer and bucked the rider from the saddle into a nearby tree. Forest Rangers responded to the scene and provided medical care for back and neck injuries. The rider was then carried to a private residence, where a helicopter picked her up for transport to a hospital.


Washington County

Town of Fort Ann
Washington County
Search: On July 4 at 5:05 pm, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiking party that became separated on Buck Mountain. The reporting party of three had made it down to the trailhead, but the remaining two subjects had not been seen since they summited. Ray Brook established cell phone contact with the two missing females and obtained coordinates through their phone. Two Forest Rangers responded, made voice contact with the subjects, and brought them to the trailhead, where they were reunited with their companions.

Warren County

Town of Hague
Search: On July 6 at 9:05 pm, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a direct call about three subjects overdue from an outing near Jabe Pond in Hague. The three males, ages 50, 27, and 10, left their Hudson Falls home at 6 am with plans to take a canoe on Jabe Pond and scout the area in search of deer tracks for the next hunting season. The group planned to return home by 3 pm. Rangers responded and located the subjects’ vehicle. A ground search was initiated and a canoe believed to belong to the subjects was located. The immediate area was checked with negative results and the search area was expanded. Three Rangers continued a ground search throughout the night. At 5:25 am on the July 7, Rangers located the three lost individuals on the west side of Middle Mountain in good health and guided them back to their boat on Jabe Pond. By 8 am, the three explorers were back to their vehicle and headed home.

Town of Bolton
Rescue: At 1:05 pm on July 6, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker reporting a male with a knee injury on Thomas Mountain in the town of Bolton. Forest Rangers responded, assessed, and splinted the subject’s leg injury and helped carry out the injured hiker. At 2:15 pm, the individual was returned to the trailhead where the Bolton Ambulance Squad transported him to a local hospital for further medical care.

Be Prepared: Properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety webpage and Adirondack Trail Information webpage for more information about where you intend to travel. The Adirondack Almanack reports weekly Outdoor Conditions each Thursday afternoon.

Related Stories

Stories under the Almanack's Editorial Staff byline come from press releases and other notices.

Send news updates and story ideas to Alamanck Editor Melissa Hart at editor@adirondackalmanack.com.

13 Responses

  1. scottvanlaer says:

    The current staffing levels of the NYS Forest Rangers is untenable. Please urge your state representatives to support the Forest Ranger staffing bill.

  2. Alexis Ward says:

    Increased staffing levels for Forest Rangers are essential, as the State Parks become more “populated” every year. Wherever there are humans, accidents tend to happen! Thats where Forest Rangers get involved, and “do these things so that others might live”. Thx!

  3. Bruce says:

    PLB (personal locator beacon). While originally developed for mariners, modern satellite communication technology has made them very usable under land conditions formerly considered to be difficult, such as heavy, overhead tree cover.

    While fishing alone, I’m frequently close to a road but often out of cell phone range in the National Forest. I carry a waterproof, floating, basic PLB for situations when there’s no one else around to help and I’m physically unable to get back to my car and phone.

    PLB’s aren’t cheap, but what’s a life worth?

    • Taras says:

      Sure but in this instance the PLB was activated out of expediency and not due to a life-threatening situation. His vehicle was stuck and, I imagine to save time, he signalled with the PLB rather than walk several miles of road to flag down a car at the highway.

      This was a Forest Service employee who probably would’ve normally called this in via radio not PLB. If John Q. Public used a PLB in this manner, NYS taxpayers might balk.

      Search for “Carl Skalak”. He’s the first person in the continental US to activate a PLB …. and the second. Basically, he opened the can of worms about what constitutes the appropriate use of a PLB.

      • Bruce says:


        People have also sent out fake calls inadvertently, or on purpose just to see what happened.

        The ranger had options, I agree. He might have gotten his butt chewed.

        Not all situations which might require rescue are life threatening in the near term. Is it better for rescue personnel to be thrashing around out there for several days, or know exactly where to go? Take the guy out in the woods for two nights while searchers spent all that time looking for him. He was not in immediate danger.

      • Scott says:

        Since in this case the PLB activation was simply the guy didn’t think he could get his truck unstuck and the rangers did not search for him and they did not rescue him, why is this considered a search and rescue report ??? I read elsewhere the guy got the truck unstuck himself and rangers met him driving out, though the press release account above leaves that out. Rangers have enough legitimate significant incidents without have to make routine stuff seem fancy.

        • John Warren says:

          “Three Forest Rangers responded to the reported coordinates near Boreas Ponds, roughly 7.5 miles from a public highway… Rangers found the Forest Service employee, who had gotten his vehicle stuck on a forest road but had no radio or cell phone service. Once the vehicle was freed, the employee was able to drive without further assistance.”

          • Scott says:

            I read the article. I understand rangers responded to assist. I liked it better when DEC only called it a search or rescue when people were actually lost or injured and rangers actually searched for them or rescued them. Now DEC is adding ranger response for vehicles and vessels out of fuel and stuck vehicles as search and rescue stuff. I guess I should start accepting that people out of gas or with a flat tire need someone from the government to rescue them.

  4. Paul says:

    We got the tox results on the guy in Kiwassa in a few days. Why does it take 6-8 weeks for these other guys?

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