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Recent TRSAR Missions -  Fossil Creek Rescue 9/29/2011


Rescue at Fossil Creek, below the springs and just below the old dam.

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The subject was in the round bowl in the middle of the picture. The stream splits and part of it flows into this bowl, and the rest flows down the channel. There is a strong flow into the bowl, and it had the effect of creating a strong clockwise current inside the bowl. The water level was maybe 12 ft down from the narrow ledge between the bowl and the stream, with vertical walls all the way around. There was a rope attached on this ledge that she was hanging on to. The water exits the bowl back into the stream below the stream waterline, but I don't know what that opening is like. This could be the chute the guy went through we rescued a few weeks ago. I have a call into Scott Davidson who probably knows. I think people go through this, but she said she didn't have the strength to get to it or something and wound up going around until she was able to grab this rope hanging down.

DPS Ranger dropped off of their medic/technician. He was able to get to the narrow ledge and created an anchor by slinging a rock below him on the creek side, but he didn't have any other equipment to effect a rescue. When I arrived, the helicopter circled once so I could see and I realized we would need the get her into a harness and haul her out of that hole, so I called back to have Warner bring the pickoff harness attached to the litter.

I got to the ledge the same way the medic did - by crossing the stream above the bowl, then skirting the edge of it above it. This is travertine, and extremely slick in wet shoes, so it took a while to get around. When I joined the medic on the ledge, we immediately lowered my PFD down to the subject, but she could not put it on. We then used one end of the rope I brought, put a number of figure 8 knots into it that she might be able to hold onto better, and attached it to the anchor. I secured the other end of my rope to the anchor and rappelled down into the water next to her, and locked off my brake-bar.

The first thing I did was get the PFD on her properly and secure it. Then I put the pick-off harness on. This was a pretty difficult task in a strong current, something we have never trained on. The walls of the cliff under water were very slick, so not a lot of leverage to work with. She was not able to help too much because of the long time she had been in the cold water. I eventually got it on her and once she was locked onto the rope she felt more secure and was able to help cinch it up.

Warner had arrived by this time and had another rope with him. Between some pulleys I had and some other equipment he brought, he was able to quickly create a 3:1 pulley system that they lowered down to us. I clipped it to the subject and they were able to pull her out pretty quickly. They lowered it back down and pulled me out.

Because she was pretty hypothermic, we rigged a rope along the ledge above the bowl and assisted her traverse across the slick, steep surface and back across the river. The helicopter flew her and her friend back to command first, then came back to pick up Warner and I.

PS - Scott called. He said you can get through the underwater arch into the main stream, but because of the strong whirlpool effect it can be pretty difficult. In her condition, and not knowing how to get into the arch, she may not have been able to hang on much longer without the quick response of the helicopter and getting a couple of us in there to effect a rescue.

Photos by Warner Thompson

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Falls at Fossil Creek
EMT & SAR members had to cross
upstream to get to subject

SAR crossed falls to the left of
drop to get to subject

Subject fought to hang on to a
rope in this whirlpool

Another shot of whirlpool

Safety line rigged along vertical wall to help
subject and rescuers back to shore on
opposite side of the falls

Anchor around rock point in photo

Anchor point

Shows anchor position
(center of front wall)

Another shot of wall and ledge
surrounding whirlpool

Rescuers went across vertical wall
(rear) and crossed ledge
(foreground) to get to subject

Another shot of the falls

And one more

Copyright 2017 Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Squad

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