On Saturday, December 8, 2012, members of Buffalo National River’s search and rescue team—BUFFSAR—assisted Newton County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) and the Ozark National Forest with the rescue of a young man in his twenties of Fort Smith, AR, who had fallen from a high cliff in the Whitaker Point vicinity of the US Forest Service’s portion of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness, part of which is managed by Buffalo National River.
The victim had been camping with friends in the nearby area and at about 2:30 AM decided to approach the cliff edge, which in this area is an overhanging, sheer 90-foot drop. The reporting party and friend of the victim notified NCSO of the incident shortly after 5 AM, who immediately requested Buffalo National River’s high angle rescue team. Hasty responders located the victim at the base of the cliff and determined that he was alive, but unresponsive, not breathing adequately on his own, and suffering from major trauma.
Paramedics from North Arkansas Regional Medical Center (NARMC) stabilized the victim and secured him in a litter. BUFFSAR effected a technical raising operation directly over the point, during which time a ParkMedic/litter attendant bagged (airway assistance devise) the patient while an EMT, ascending on a separate rope system, assisted with suctioning his airway. The team then conducted a wheeled-litter carryout to a waiting ambulance, which transported the victim to the closest trauma facility. Air evacuation was requested, but was not possible due to dense fog in the area.
This incident provided an opportunity for BUFFSAR to work side-by-side with members of neighboring organizations, including NCSO, NARMC, Arkansas Forestry Commission, the USFS, and Krooked Kreek, Ponca, Mt. Sherman, Jasper, and Compton Volunteer Fire Departments, forging strong relationships with them. NCSO SAR Volunteer Glenn Wheeler served as Incident Commander and NCSO is continuing the investigation of the incident.