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For Release: Thursday, April 17, 2014

DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger 2013-14 Winter Search and Rescue Report

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to search and rescue incidents on forest preserve, state forest and conservation easement lands. 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 backcountry.

"DEC Forest Rangers' knowledge of first aid, land navigation and rope rescue techniques are often critical to the success of missions," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "Search and rescue missions often require rangers to function in remote wilderness areas from rugged mountainous peaks to white-water rivers, and through vast forest areas from spruce-fir thicket to open hardwoods."

The Adirondacks are popular for outdoor recreation enthusiasts leading to search and rescue incidents. Often times these incidents are a result of an injury or illness beyond the control of the people involved. However, some incidents could be prevented with proper preparation and planning before entering the backcountry.

Clinton County

Town of Saranac, Private Land

On Monday, December 9, 2013, at approximately 7:15 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call reporting two lost hunters. Robert Wood, 79, and his 13-year-old grandson, both of Saranac, NY became lost while bird hunting on private property by taking the wrong logging road. Two DEC Forest Rangers responded with members of the Saranac and Ausable Forks Fire Departments and began searching the area. Mr. Wood followed a swamp back to the road and was located by fire department personnel close to the roadway at approximately 9:50 p.m. The 13 year old was treated for mild hypothermia and released. Always carry a map and compass, and know how to use them.

Essex County

Town of Newcomb, High Peaks Wilderness Area

On Saturday, December 21, 2013, at approximately 11:58 p.m., DEC Central Dispatch received a call reporting an overdue group of hikers. Two DEC Forest Rangers responded to the area and began searching. Joseph LaLuna, 41 of Queensbury, NY; Jack Webb, 30, of Ft Ann, NY; Scott Sullivan, 55, of Glens Falls, NY; Chris Sullivan, 28, of Kingsbury, NY; Ken Howe, 52, of Granville, NY; and Paul Pruiksma, 46, of Greenwich, NY left the East River trailhead that morning at 8:00 a.m. to hike Allen Mountain. They crossed the Opalescent River via an ice bridge in the morning but upon their return the ice bridge had been swept away and the river was deeper with a raging current. The group backtracked to a road and located an unlocked shelter where they stayed to warm up. At 2:43 a.m. the group was located by a Forest Ranger and found to be in good condition. Forest Rangers shuttled the group back to their vehicle two at a time by snowmobile and all were clear of the scene by 5:30 a.m. Always check the weather forecast before entering the backcountry. Plan and prepare for changing conditions.

Town of Keene, High Peaks Wilderness Area

On Monday, December 23, 2013, at approximately 10:05 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call reporting two overdue hikers. Anthony Salvarezza, 52, and Richard Salvarezza, 21, both of Queensbury, NY, planned to hike Saddleback and Basin Mountains that day. Three DEC Forest Rangers responded and found the Salvarezza's vehicle at the Garden parking lot. Shortly thereafter both hikers were located in good health approximately 0.25 mile from the trailhead. Difficult trail conditions and an attempt to bushwhack up Basin Mountain prolonged their day. Know the terrain and conditions of the area you plan to hike. Inform someone of your trip itinerary and DEC backcountry emergency phone number (518-891-0235).

Town of Keene, Dix Mountain Wilderness Area

On Saturday, December 28, 2013, at approximately 2:41 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call reporting an injured ice climber. Thomas Yandon, 68, of East Amherst, NY, was ice climbing in the Chapel Pond canyon when he fell approximately 30 feet to the base of the route and then slid another 40 feet. Eight Forest Rangers responded along with Keene Valley EMS. Mr. Yandon had multiple injuries and required stabilization. He was backboarded by the Forest Rangers and carried out to an awaiting ambulance where he was transported to Elizabethtown Community Hospital. Accidents can happen. Always carry a first aid kit and contact the DEC Forest Rangers at 518-891-0235 in backcountry emergencies.

Town of Wilmington, McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area

On Monday, December 30, 2013, at approximately 3:33 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call reporting a hiker in need of assistance. Travis Callahan, 32, of Philadelphia, NY, was descending Whiteface Mountain when he began experiencing severe leg cramps. Outdoor temperatures were dropping into the single digits at that time. Two DEC Forest Rangers responded and evacuated Mr. Callahan by snowmobile. He was rehydrated and sought further medical treatment on his own. Carry plenty of water and food. Eat and drink often and rest frequently. Wear, carry or pack clothes and gear for all weather conditions.

Town of Keene, Giant Mountain Wilderness Area

On Wednesday, January 1, 2014, at approximately 1:12 a.m., DEC Central Dispatch received a call reporting an overdue hiker. David Dick, 35, of Ontario, Canada, was hiking Giant Mountain when darkness overcame him. Without a light, he soon lost the trail. Three DEC Forest Rangers responded and began searching the mountain. At 5:17 a.m. Forest Rangers made voice contact with Mr. Dick and at 7:27 a.m. they found him near the ledges on the Nubble Switchback. Mr. Dick was warmed, hydrated and escorted out of the woods. He declined further medical attention and everyone was clear of the scene at 9:17 a.m. Always carry a headlamp or flashlight and extra batteries.

Town of North Elba, High Peaks Wilderness Area

On Saturday, March 15, 2014 at approximately 1:01 p.m., DEC Dispatch Ray Brook received a call reporting an injured hiker. Laurel Allen, 62, of Peru, NY, was hiking Cascade Mountain when she fell ten feet near the first false summit and was injured. She was conscious and alert after the fall but sustained a minor injury. A DEC Forest Ranger responded, met Ms. Allen on the trail and walked her out to her vehicle. Ms. Allen declined further assistance and opted to seek medical treatment on her own. Accidents can happen. Always carry a first aid kit and contact the DEC Forest Rangers at 518-891-0235 in backcountry emergencies.

Fulton County

Town of Bleeker, Private Land

On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, at approximately 3:46 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call from the Fulton County Sheriff's Office requesting assistance for a missing person. George Heide, 63, of Bleeker, NY, was missing for approximately 4 hours after saying goodbye to his family and walking into the woods. Two DEC Forest Rangers responded and located Mr. Heide at approximately 6:00 p.m. inside an unlocked camper. He was transported to St. Mary's Hospital for further evaluation. Always inform someone of your itinerary, including an expected return time, and the DEC backcountry emergency phone number (518-891-0235).

Town of Stratford, Ferris Lake Wild Forest

On Wednesday, March 5, 2014, at approximately 7:55 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office reporting a lost snowmobiler. Charles Conaway, 62, of Wells, NY, left his home at 11:00 a.m. for a round-trip snowmobile ride from Wells via Hoffmeister, Salisbury Ridge Runners and the Powley Road in Stratford before returning to Wells. At 7:30 p.m. Mr. Conaway left a message with a friend stating he was "desperately lost in the area of the Powley Road in Stratford." The reporting party contacted Hamilton County 911 as soon as the message was received. Three DEC Forest Rangers responded to the search. Ray Brook Dispatch attempted cell phone and text contact with Mr. Conaway without success. Temperatures were forecasted to be -7F overnight. Fortunately a short time later, Mr. Conaway contacted Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and advised that he had found his way back to the trail and was on his way home. Know the area in which you plan to recreate. Always carry a map and compass, and know how to use them.

Hamilton County

Town of Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Wild Forest

On Monday, December 23, 2013, at approximately 4:05 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office reporting a group of lost hikers. Alex Sleischer, 61, of Plaingfield, NJ; and Balazs Sebestini, 35, Kati Ohens, 38 and Bruno Ohens, 36, all from New Zealand, left the Rock Lake trailhead near Blue Mountain Lake at 11:00 a.m. to hike a short loop. They were lost without a map or compass. The group was growing concerned due to the cold and wet conditions and knowing they were miles from their car. A DEC Forest Ranger responded while Ray Brook Dispatch made cell phone contact with the hikers to relay information back to the Forest Ranger. Based on their answers, the Forest Ranger determined their location and located them at 4:35 p.m. They were returned to their vehicle four miles away in good health. Always carry a map and compass, and know how to use them. Wear, carry or pack clothes and gear for all weather conditions.

Town of Long Lake, Moose River Plains Wild Forest

On Friday, February 28, 2014, at approximately 12:03 a.m., DEC Central Dispatch received a call from NY State Police reporting a snowmobile accident on Uncas Road in the Town of Long Lake. A DEC Forest Ranger responded to the scene along with Raquette Lake Fire Department. They located the injured snowmobiler, Craig Smith, 43, of Old Forge, NY, approximately 0.7 mile from Raquette Lake and 50 feet from the road. Mr. Smith was packaged and carried out to a waiting ambulance and transported to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Utica. Accidents can happen. Always carry a first aid kit and contact the DEC Forest Rangers at 518-891-0235 in backcountry emergencies.

Town of Inlet, Pigeon Lake Wilderness

On Sunday, March 16, 2014, at approximately 1:46 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call reporting an injured skier requiring assistance. Gail Hoffman, 70, of Holland Patent, NY, was cross-country skiing on the Cascade Lake Trail when she fell and was injured. Two DEC Forest Rangers responded along with Inlet and Eagle Bay Fire Department and Inlet Police Department. Ms. Hoffman was evacuated on a rescue sled and brought back to the trailhead where she was transported by ambulance to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Utica for further treatment. Accidents can happen. Always carry a first aid kit and contact the DEC Forest Rangers at 518-891-0235 in backcountry emergencies.

Town of Indian Lake, Indian Lake Islands Campground

On Sunday, March 23, 2014, at approximately 7:10 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office reporting an injured snowmobiler. A DEC Forest Ranger responded along with Indian Lake Rescue. A 16-year-old female from Schenectady, NY was ejected from her snowmobile while coming into the boat launch area at the Indian Lake Islands Campground. She was transported by Indian Lake Rescue to the Glens Falls Hospital for evaluation of her injuries. Accidents can happen. Always carry a first aid kit and contact the DEC Forest Rangers at 518-891-0235 in backcountry emergencies.

Warren County

Town of Bolton, Private Land

On Saturday, December 7, 2013, at approximately 1:56 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call reporting a hunter in an ATV accident. Clifford Sprague, 64, of Bolton, NY, rolled an ATV while riding and it landed on top of him. Mr. Sprague was conscious and breathing but experiencing pain. Three DEC Forest Rangers responded down the trail to Mr. Sprague's location, where he was already heading out in a personal vehicle. Once at the trailhead, Mr. Sprague was evaluated by Bolton Rescue and then transported to Glen Falls Hospital for treatment. Accidents can happen. Always carry a first aid kit and contact the DEC Forest Rangers at 518-891-0235 in backcountry emergencies.

Washington County

Town of Fort Ann, Lake George Wild Forest

On Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at approximately 5:03 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call reporting two lost hikers on Buck Mountain. The hikers, Emma Rozell, 18, of Granville, NY and Megan Weaver, 18, of Hudson Falls, NY, were in good health but had lost the trail. Four DEC Forest Rangers responded while the Ray Brook Dispatch and Washington County 911 were able to obtain their cell phone coordinates. At 7:30 p.m. a Forest Ranger located them in good condition. Ms.Rozell and Ms.Weaver had been trying to avoid icy conditions on the trail when they became lost without a map or compass. They were escorted back to their vehicles and returned to the trailhead at 8:45 p.m. Always carry a map and compass, and know how to use them. Know your abilities and the area you plan to hike.

  • Contact for this Page
  • David Winchell
    NYSDEC Region 5
    1115 State Route 86
    P.O. Box 296
    Ray Brook, NY 12977
    518-897-1248
    email us
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