Unsure of the victim’s exact location, it took about a dozen rescuers, who fanned out on foot and on ATVs, about two hours to find a Lovell man injured in an ATV rollover accident on Little Mountain on Monday evening.
Larry Hill, 40, of Lovell rolled his 4-wheeler into the Cow Creek drainage, which is located on Little Mountain, at approximately 5 p.m.
Christopher Joy, who was on the trail with Hill on a separate ATV, made his way out of the area where he was able to call for help. Joy met with the rescue team at a predesigned place and then led them to the victim.
Since Joy was not extremely familiar with the area, he was not able to lead rescuers to the victim by the shortest route, but he got them to the man nonetheless, said Search and Rescue Team Commander Scott Allred. Consequently, it took teams as much as an hour longer to find the victim, estimated Allred.
“Unfortunately, our dispatch center does not have a GPS call system that identifies the location a call is coming from,” explained Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn. “This would have been the type of situation where this kind of equipment would have really been nice to have. Rescuers could have found this man a lot sooner if we had that system. With about 70 percent of our area public lands that do not have addresses, a GPS system would really help.”
Hill, who was severely injured during the accident with a dislocated hip, waited alone for rescuers to arrive until close to 7 p.m.
Allred said once rescuers found Hill, they were able to relay his GPS coordinates to other SAR members who brought in emergency medical personnel to evaluate the extent of his injuries. Once the severity of Hill’s injuries was determined, rescuers quickly dispatched an emergency helicopter to airlift him to a hospital in Billings.
“This is the first time we worked with Eagle Med out of Cody and I have to say they were really on the ball,” said Allred. “They landed in the dark, which is something most helicopters won’t do, using night goggles to see the landing area we marked for them. It was very impressive.
“The victim had very extensive and very painful injuries and I’m not sure we could have carried him out of there on our own. We probably would have had to stay with him all night and to wait for the helicopter to land in the morning. It was just amazing that they were able to land at night like that. It really saved the man a lot of suffering.”
Blackburn said it was unclear what caused the accident. He said it wasn’t clear if the two men were out hunting or just out enjoying an ATV ride.
“Those are steep areas in there,” said Blackburn. “It’s unclear what caused the accident to happen in this rugged terrain. What’s most important is that we found him and got him the help he needed.”
Allred said about a dozen SAR team volunteers were involved in the search. Two emergency medical technicians were transported by the SAR team to the victim, who was at the site of the injury. The EMTs on site were then able to evaluate the victim’s condition while other medical team staff waited with an ambulance. He said two sheriff’s deputies were also at the scene.
“I am so proud of my team of men and women,” said Allred. “I can’t speak highly enough of this all volunteer team.”
By Patti Carpenter