An emergency helicopter from Portneuf Medical Center and members of Bannock County Search and Rescue successfully completed a dramatic rescue of an American Falls hiker last week after he found himself trapped on an icy slope near Scout Mountain.
The hiker was identified as Gary Fitzgerald Jr. of American Falls. He sustained knee and shoulder injuries after falling down a steep, ice-covered slope while hiking alone on Indian Mountain near Scout Mountain and the Bannock County Landfill.
Fitzgerald was hunting for antlers when he fell. He spent nearly five hours on the mountain before being rescued just before 9 p.m. He was transported to Portneuf Medical Center via helicopter, and he was treated and released.
Bannock County Sheriff’s Lorin Nielsen said a command post was set up near the landfill during the rescue effort.
The PMC helicopter circled the area a few times, and Nielsen said the pilot determined that he could land on the ridge. But there was nothing to anchor to, and the victim was trapped at the bottom of an ice slide about 200 feet below the embankment.
The sheriff said the terrain was rugged and steep and temperatures were dropping quickly.
Nielsen said two nurses from the PMC rescue helicopter were left on the ground, and the pilot made another circle and landed below the injured man.
“They wanted the nurses on the ground to stabilize (Fitzgerald) for transport,” Nielsen said.
Search and Rescue members used 4-wheelers to get as close to the injured man as possible, but they still had a 30-minute hike to get to him.
Once they reached Fitzgerald, rescuers used a stretcher and ropes to lower the injured Fitman down to the waiting helicopter.
“Then Search and Rescue had to hike back up and get their machines,” Nielsen said.
The sheriff said it was a good thing Fitzgerald had his cellphone with him and was within cellphone range after falling down the slope around 4 p.m.
“If he hadn’t been able to call 911, he very well could have frozen to death,” Nielsen said.