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Late Winter Incidents

April 5th, 2010 · No Comments · News

Here’s the map of recent Search and Rescue incidents. I’d say we had a pretty “safe” season and nobody seriously hurt. Full details after the jump.


(Large Map)

Essex County
1. Town of North Elba, High Peaks Wilderness Area
At noon on Saturday February 27, 2010, an avalanche occurred on a slide on the northeast side of Wright Peak. The two skiers that triggered the slide were partially buried in the avalanche but were able to rescue themselves.

DEC Forest Rangers were not requested for a rescue but upon learning about the avalanche later that afternoon began an investigation of the incident. They found no evidence of people unaccounted for in the area and determined that, fortunately, nobody else was in the avalanche. The entire 300 feet by 1200 feet area of the slide had slid down the mountain and piled snow debris at the base exceeding 20 feet deep in spots. Forest rangers interviewed Ian Measak and James McNeil (ages and hometowns unknown) by phone and learned that they had dug a test pit at the base of the slide before heading up slide to ski down. While climbing the slide they heard “woofing” noises coming from the fresh snow and decided to retreat back to the base. As they were turned to head back down the snow gave way, carrying both men down the slope. One man was pinned against a stump and buried up to his chest, while the other traveled more than 600 feet before stopping, buried up to his neck. Both men were able to dig themselves out of the snow and left the area without further incident. On February 17, 2000, another avalanche occurred on this very same slide. It was triggered by a group of skiers and claimed the life of one of them.

Franklin County
2. Town of Harrietstown, High Peaks Wilderness
On Saturday, February 6, 2010, at approximately 2:00 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call from Franklin County 911, reporting a hiker on Donaldson Mountain in the Seward Mt Range with a dislocated knee. Skip Young, 52, of Schenectady, NY, was hiking with two other individuals when he was injured. DEC Forest Rangers responded and after making contact with the hiking party by cell phone, learned that the hiking party had started to descend on the Calkins Brook trail. The forest rangers met up with the hiking party and transported the Mr. Young by snowmobile to the trailhead.

Hamilton County
3. Town of Lake Pleasant, Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement Lands
On Saturday, March 6, 2010, at approximately 10:30 AM, a DEC Forest Ranger was notified of a snowmobile accident on the Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement Lands. Ray Leach, 49, of Jackson, NJ, was riding a borrowed snowmobile and ejected from the machine when he rode up over a knoll and struck a tree. DEC Forest Rangers, DEC Environmental Conservation Officers, Hamilton County Sheriff and Speculator EMS & Fire all responded to the scene. Mr. Leach was transported by a State Police Aviation Unit helicopter to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Utica.

4. Town of Lake Pleasant, Jessup River Wild Forest
On Saturday, March 6, 2010, at approximately 5:30 PM, a DEC Forest Ranger was notified of and responded to a snowmobile accident on Sacandaga Lake. An 11 year old boy from Delhi, NY was riding on Sacandaga Lake toward the Fawn Lake snowmobile trail when he struck a pressure ridge in the ice. The boy was ejected from the snowmobile. The Speculator Ambulance squad determined he had a fractured wrist and transported him to St. Mary’s Hospital.

5. Town of Wells, Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement Lands
On Monday, March 8, 2010, at approximately 4:19 PM, DEC Dispatch received a call from Salvatore Gentile, 54, of Yorktown Heights, NY reporting that his vehicle was stuck somewhere on Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement Land. He and three others – Carmine Fardella, 61, of Mahopac, NY, Mario Calandrello, 64, of Ossining, NY and Gjon Zadrima, 64, of Thornwood, NY – were unable to free the vehicle. DEC Forest Rangers responded and searched the drivable roads in the area but were unable to locate the truck or the party. Forest rangers then began searching the “Old Route 8” snowmobile trail where they located Mr. Gentile and Mr. Fardella. Mr. Zadrima and the vehicle were located near the intersection of the snowmobile trail and Fly Creek Road. A snowmobiler had picked up Mr. Calandrello. A local skidder operator was contacted to tow the vehicle that out of the ditch it was buried in. Mr. Gentile stated that the group was rabbit hunting when they lost 6 of their eight dogs. In an attempt to locate the dogs they went down the snowmobile trail and became stuck.

6. Town of Wells, Sacandaga River
On Sunday, March 21, at approximately noon DEC Forest Rangers responded to reports of an overturned kayaker on the Sacandaga River near the Fulton/Hamilton County line. Elfredia Parker, 64, of Northville, NY was kayaking the river when her boat hit a submerged branch which trapped and overturned the boat, ejecting her into the water. Mrs. Parker was able to reach a small rock shoal, but was stranded. Forest Ranger Dave Kallen, wearing a cold water rescue suit, and members of the Northampton Rescue Squad used a small boat to rescue Mrs. Parker from the shoal. She was brought to shore downstream where an ambulance crew evaluated her for injury. She was released to her husband and rangers retrieved the kayak later in the day.

Saratoga County
7. Town Of Hadley, Wilcox Lake Wild Forest
On Sunday, February 7, 2010, at approximately 12:00 AM, DEC Dispatch received a call from Saratoga County Dispatch reporting a hiker in need of assistance on the summit of Hadley Mountain. Katherine Kuhl, 29, of Clifton Park, NY, said she was unable to return to her car without assistance. DEC Forest Rangers hiked up the mountain and located Ms. Kuhl at approximately 1:36 AM. She stated that she had hiked to the fire tower in the afternoon, but on her return trip mistakenly took a bushwhack trail north, which lead to North Round Top. She realized she was lost and backtracked to Hadley Mountain Fire Tower, not wanting to risk getting lost again in the dark she called for assistance. Forest rangers escorted Ms. Kuhl back to her car at the trailhead at 2:30 AM.

8. Town of Edinburg, Great Sacandaga Lake
On Sunday, February 21, 2010, at approximately 4:11 AM, DEC Dispatch received a report from a passing motorist of a possible snowmobile through the ice on Great Sacandaga Lake. DEC Forest Rangers and State Police, along with numerous volunteer fire departments from Fulton and Saratoga counties responded to the scene. Forest rangers used their airboat to transport divers to the site where the vehicle was believed to have gone through the ice. The divers located a 3 wheel ATV which was then retrieved by the VFD. State Police tracked down the owner of the ATV and located the operator, asleep at his residence. The operator, Jeffrey Shiely, 39, of Hadley, NY had walked home after the incident. The State Police were investigating the matter.

Warren County
9. Town of Johnsburg, Gore Mountain Intensive Use Area/Siamese Pond Wilderness
On Wednesday, February 24, 2010, at approximately 2:40 PM, DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a report from Gore Mountain Ski Area of a lost skier. Mike Downer, 29, of Glendale, MA, was reported missing by friends after he had skied out of bounds. Two Gore Mountain Ski Patrollers had located Mr. Downer’s tracks and were following them westward towards Black Mountain Brook in the adjacent Siamese Ponds Wilderness. Gore Mountain staff were concerned he may miss the brook and head further west into the wilderness. DEC Forest Rangers were requested to intercept Mr. Downer. Three forest rangers entered the woods from Chatiemac Road. A forest ranger on snowmobile went up the east side of the Black Mountain Brook drainage, while two other forest rangers, with snowshoes and skis, headed up the west side of the drainage. At 5:18 PM, the forest ranger on the snowmobile located Mr. Downer and the two ski patrollers who had caught up to him. Mr. Downer and the ski patrollers were wet, cold and tired but otherwise in good shape. Mr. Downer, the forest rangers and the ski patrollers were out of the woods by 6:00 PM.

On Sunday, February 28, 2010, at approximately 2:41 PM, a Forest Ranger received a report from the Gore Mountain Ski Area of possible lost skiers. Gore Mountain Ski Patrollers had located ski tracks in an out of bounds area and heading into the adjacent Siamese Ponds Wilderness. DEC Forest Rangers were contacted and informed that the skiers appeared to be heading towards Black Mountain Brook and were possibly lost. Forest rangers set up a command post on nearby Chatiemac Road and four forest rangers headed up into Black Mountain Brook drainage, where they planned to intercept the lost skiers as they came down the drainage. The skiers, Cory R. Dal Mata, 30, of Gloversville, N.Y., Steven E. Gottler, 25, of Albany, N.Y., and a 17 year old male of Queensbury, N.Y., were located by the rangers at approximately 5:40 PM, near the headwaters of Black Brook. The three men were escorted down to the command post and transported back to the Gore Mountain Ski Area.

At about the same time, Gore Mountain staff received a phone call from the wife of Christopher Trotta, 40, of Croton on the Hudson, N.Y. She informed the ski area staff that her husband had called her by cell phone, reporting that he and their two sons, ages 13 and 11, were out of bounds and lost somewhere on the south side of the mountain. Two ski patrollers assisting on the first search were already on the tracks of the three lost skiers and located them at 8:00 PM. The ski patrollers reported that they would escort the group back to the ski area, while forest rangers relocated to the ski area and developed a plan to access the skiers from a maintenance road on the upper southern slope of the mountain. Soon afterwards, at about 9:40 PM, the ski patrollers reported that the young boys were unable to continue. They developed a plan that would allow one ski patroller to remain with the two boys, while another patroller would assist Mr. Trotta out of the woods.

Three forest rangers headed into woods to find both the ski patroller and Mr. Trotta. At 10 PM, the forest rangers encountered the two and both followed the forest rangers tracks back to the road, while the three forest rangers followed the skiers’ tracks back to the other ski patroller and the two boys. It was not an easy trip for any of the people involved, forest rangers reported encountering six feet of snow on the ground, as well as spruce and balsam regeneration at the higher elevation. At 10:55 p.m. they located the second ski patroller and the two boys, who were wet, cold and tired. A large fire was built and the boys were given dry clothing and food. Meanwhile a fourth forest ranger was breaking trail for an exit route from the top of Gore Mountain. While breaking trail, he encountered similar snow conditions and ledges which slowed his progress. He finally reached the group at 12:15 AM. The whole group followed the packed trail back up the mountain, reaching the top by 1:15 AM. Mr. Trotta and his sons, the ski patrollers and the forest rangers returned safely to the base lodge by 2 AM. A total of six forest rangers and 20 Gore Mountain Ski Area staff were either in the field searching or working as support staff over the course of the operation.

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