We couldn’t have said it better ourselves: Search & Rescue volunteers are ‘phenomenal’
“These guys are just phenomenal!”
We wish the Messenger could take credit for that exclamation about the Sanpete Search and Rescue, but that honor goes to Sgt. Jayson Albee, the liaison between the S&R and the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Department.
But even if we weren’t the ones to first say it, we can at least echo it—loudly—through the streets, fields, valleys and mountains of Sanpete County.
Especially the mountains, where Search and Rescue volunteers spend so much of their time helping others.
The Messenger sat down with Albee after the successful rescue of a young girl on Skyline Drive, reported in the Aug. 10 issue of the newspaper. During our interview, Albee opened our eyes on just what these “guys” (the group does indeed include women, it should be noted) do.
Between July 2 and Aug. 9, the Search and Rescue responded to nine different calls, including two at the very same time, three in a single 12-hour period, and five in as many days. Some details about these calls will show why these local heroes are worthy of the name.
- July 2 and July 15 — Two ATV accidents, which included locating injured individuals and transporting them to medical helicopters. One of them was an 11-year-old child who had to be LifeFlighted. (Did you know that it is up to the Search and Rescue to establish landing areas on the mountain for helicopter rescues?) In the other incident, the individual was trapped in nasty, steep, rugged canyon and, with broken ribs and possibly broken neck and back, had to be carried 1.5 miles to the landing zone.
“That’s always a little tricky,” Albee says.
That, our friends, is what we call an understatement.
- July 20-21 — Two stuck vehicles in rainy, muddy, slick conditions. While Albee made it clear (and wished us to do likewise) that Search and Rescue means rescuing people, not vehicles, S&R volunteers made sure people who wanted to wait things out until drier conditions had enough food, water and fuel; the others, they brought safely down off the mountain.
- July 23 — A person lost on the Ferron side of 12-Mile Canyon called in at 8:30 p.m. Cellphone coverage was so spotty that dispatchers could make out only “lost,” “injured,” and “Duck Fork.” The call was lost before they could even get GPS coordinates. With such an un-pinpointed area, S&R volunteers were on the call until 4:30 that morning, searching for a long while before using ropes and pulleys to finally rescue a man, who had slipped off a ridge into a deep ravine.
- July 23 — A call came in at 9:03 p.m. (notice the date as the same as the previous one, and only 33 minutes later). Someone had a broken ankle, this time clear up the other end of the county in Fairview Canyon. Albee divided volunteers and resources “the best we could” between there and Duck Fork. The Fairview Canyon incident would require a helicopter to do a hoist. There are only two choppers in the state with that capability, and neither of them currently have the ability for night rescue. Volunteers hiked into him, took him pain medication and other supplies, built fires to keep him warm and spent about five hours with him until first light when the helicopter could lift him out. It took even these seasoned volunteers almost two and a half hours to hike to him through “really nasty, thick, very steep” terrain.
“That’s the neat thing about our guys: They’re prepared to do that,” Albee says.
- July 24 — On the way home from Duck Fork, at about 8:30 a.m., another call: Someone had gone into anaphylactic shock due to a bee sting. Medical assistance was required. Almost any time medical assistance is needed on the mountain, it’s going to involve Search and Rescue because ambulances can’t go “off-road.”
Notice that the last few incidents all occurred during a time when everyone else in the county was celebrating a nice, relaxing, recreational four-day Pioneer Day holiday.
“When it’s a holiday, and we should be enjoying our holiday, we get called out to help somebody who’s having a bad day,” Albee says.
While that’s amazing by itself, the real tremendous thing about it is that Search and Rescue volunteers arent esentful about it. “They’re a group of people who want to serve, enjoy serving, helping, and doing things that other people can’t do or aren’t willing to do.,” Albee said.
- Aug. 4 — Another stranded motorist in very muddy, uncertain conditions—this time a young family of five, one of the children a 7-month-old infant. Search and Rescue got them back to their camp, where the campers made arrangements to get their vehicle. “They weren’t really prepared to spend the night, mom with a little baby,” Albee says. They weren’t in any real danger, “But you can understand the concern of a dad with little kids, wanting to keep his family safe and comfortable.”
- Then, on Aug. 5 was the search for 4-year-old Cassidy Livingston, as reported in last week’s newspaper.
Now admittedly it was a busier than usual period, Albee said. But it shows what our Search and Rescue volunteers do, and what they must be prepared to do. In that period, they put in 466 combined manhours. That’s the equivalent of more than 11 fulltime workdays.
Then there’s the additional 6-10 hours of training and meetings every month, more than that if they’re specially trained in water rescue (deep-water, swift-water and ice), snow rescue (avalanche, snowmobiles and snow cats), technical rescue (ropes, high-angle, low-angle, confined-space and heavy (weight) rescue), or on the communications team (radio operations, GPS and APRS—a real-time direct-to-computer tracking system).
Then you’ve got the parades and celebrations in which their presence is ubiquitous (think: Mormon Miracle Pageant or Sanpete County Fair).
Their dedication and sense of duty is nothing short of amazing. “The pager goes off, and they’re expected to run out the door, grab their gear, and go spend the night up on the mountain with little or no warning at all,” Albee says, and often in conditions that no other sane person would dare go out in.
“I keep saying,” Albee says, and we say it, too, “My hat’s off to them.”
If you see one of them, shake his or her hand and with us say, “Thank you.”