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For Release: Monday, July 10, 2017

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions for 7/3 - 7/9/17

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Rangers respond to search and rescue incidents statewide. 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.

In 2016, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 356 search and rescue missions, extinguished 185 wildfires that burned a total of 4,191 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in nearly 3,000 tickets or arrests.

"Across New York, DEC Forest Rangers are on the front lines helping people safely enjoy the great outdoors," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Their knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques is critical to the success of their missions, which take them from remote wilderness areas, with rugged mountainous peaks, to white-water rivers, and throughout our vast forested areas statewide."

Tragically, DEC Forest Rangers aided in the search and recovery of six visitors to New York's rivers, streams, and other bodies of water over the past week. These visitors were unprepared for waterways made dangerous by recent heavy rains. DEC encourages people to use common sense when recreating in swift waters, especially after heavy rains that swell streams and rivers. Places normally safe for swimming or boating can quickly become dangerous after storms. Water is forceful, and even good swimmers have a tough time staying afloat due to turbulence and hydraulics. Visitors to rivers, streams, or any bodies of water should always wear a PFD, even in a tube or other floatation device.

Recent missions carried out by DEC Forest Rangers include:

Town of Wells
Hamilton County
On July 3 at 2:55 p.m., 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 p.m., 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 six 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 Wilmington
Essex County
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 p.m., the individual was located deceased by searchers and extricated from the gorge by a technical rope system.

Currents in the flume were extremely dangerous in the aftermath of storms last weekend.
Currents in the flume were extremely dangerous
in the aftermath of storms last weekend.
Several agencies responded to locate a man who was swimming in the flumes in the AuSable River in Wilmington.
Several agencies responded to locate a man who
was swimming in the flumes in the AuSable River
in Wilmington.

Town of Little Falls
Herkimer County
On July 3, Forest Rangers received a request from the New York State Police in Herkimer to assist in a search for three subjects missing in the Mohawk River in Little Falls. A witness stated he saw the subjects enter a closed boat launch area even though signage indicated that access to the river was closed. The three launched a new paddleboat while not wearing or possessing PFDs. Rangers responded with the help of the State Police Aviation out of Albany and a Ranger airboat. Efforts included a land search, a boat search, a helicopter search, lookouts along shore, and UAS (drone) aircraft observations. One of the subjects was recovered deceased on July 4 at 11:15 a.m. by the ranger airboat. The other two subjects were located deceased on July 5, one by the NYSP dive team airboat and the other by the fire department lookout and Forest Ranger UAS operations in different areas of the river.

Forest rangers in airboat.
DEC Forest Rangers aided in the search for three missing boaters on the Mohawk River.
DEC Forest Rangers aided in the search for three missing
boaters on the Mohawk River.

Town of Shandaken
Ulster County
On July 3, Forest Ranger Kevin Slade received information regarding an injured hiker between Slide and Cornell mountains in the Slide Mountain Wilderness. Initial callers contacted Ulster County 911 and provided coordinates. Rangers responded on foot and via New York State Police Newburg helicopter. The injured hiker was located and a Forest Ranger was inserted by hoist to evaluate and treat the subject. The hiker was then hoisted from the mountain and relayed to an ambulance at the staging area for transport to a local hospital.

Forest Rangers tending to an injured man in the Slide Mountain Wilderness.
Forest Rangers tending to an injured man in the Slide Mountain

Town of Hardenburgh
Ulster County
On July 3 at 8:07 p.m., a hiker contacted DEC Central Dispatch from the Ridge Trail on Balsam Lake Mountain. The subject believed he got turned in the wrong direction and was looking to speak with a Ranger to talk him out. Ranger David Meade called the hiker, confirmed his location, and determined that the man and his friends were not adequately equipped to continue hiking due to darkness. Ranger Nathaniel Shea, responding with head lamps, located the hikers and assisted them out of the woods.

Town of Keene
Essex County
On July 4 at 8:47 a.m., 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 p.m. 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 a.m., 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 p.m. The subject's gear and level of preparedness lent to his withstanding two unplanned nights in the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area.

Town of Fort Ann
Washington County
On July 4 at 5:05 p.m., 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.

Town of Glen
Montgomery County
On July 6 at 11:15 a.m., Ranger Melissa Milano was requested by Montgomery County Sheriff's Office to assist with locating a missing 75-year-old female subject believed to be suffering from dementia and last seen at approximately 6:30 a.m. Rangers responded and coordinated search efforts aided by volunteers. The woman was located in good health at 1:51 p.m., and returned to her residence.

Town of Bolton
Warren County
At 1:05 p.m. 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 p.m., the individual was returned to the trailhead where the Bolton Ambulance Squad transported him to a local hospital for further medical care.

Town of Hague
Warren County
On July 6 at 9:05 p.m., 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 a.m. 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 p.m. 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 a.m. 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 a.m., the three explorers were back to their vehicle and headed home.

Town of Greig
Lewis County
At 11:01 a.m. 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.

Town of Saranac Lake
Franklin County
On July 6 at 7:59 a.m., 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 a.m. on July 9, the NYSP Dive Team located the subject deceased and submerged using their side scan sonar.

Town of Blue Mountain Lake
Hamilton County
At 5:38 p.m. 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.

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC's Hiking Safety web page and Adirondack Backcountry Information web page for more information.

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