UPDATE: Rescuers bring injured kayaker to safety

Man hurt after riding down 60-foot falls on the Lewis River

By John Branton and Paul Suarez

Published:

Updated: October 12, 2011, 9:12 PM

 

When kayaker Joseph Grudger, 19, rode down a 60-foot waterfall in Gifford Pinchot National Forest late Wednesday morning, the splashy, rolling fun turned to pain. He’d injured himself, possibly his back.

Two fellow kayakers came to help, said Chief Ben Peeler with North Country Emergency Medical Service, based in Yacolt.

“They got him out of the kayak and laid him down on the shoreline,” Peeler said.

With no cellphone coverage there, one friend drove to an area to make a 911 call; the other stayed with Grudger.

The call came in to the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office about 11 a.m., said 911 dispatcher and assistant spokeswoman Jacqueline Garrity.

The friends were in a remote area, in the Lower Falls region of the North Fork of the Lewis River, 30 miles east of Cougar.

Sheriff’s deputies were called to help, as were members of Skamania County Fire District 6, North Country EMS and its all-volunteer Volcano Rescue Team.

‘High-angle’ rescue

Grudger was “conscious and alert through the whole thing” and talking, Peeler said. Rescuers fastened him in a rescue basket.

The team, trained and equipped to use rope systems, set up one system to hoist the basket about 15 feet vertically to the top of a ledge, an operation called a “high-angle” rescue. The hoisters themselves were fastened to a rope system uphill, Peeler said.

Once the basket reached the top of the ledge, the 11 volunteers shifted to a low-angle rescue, roping in and carrying the basket about 100 yards uphill near Forest Service Road 90.

North Country ambulance paramedics then took Grudger to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where he was listed in satisfactory condition Wednesday night.

The Volcano Rescue Team had saved someone again. Peeler said the team is accredited by the Mountain Rescue Association.

“Our guys are trained and equipped to be dropped off and be self-sufficient for 24 hours,” Peeler said. In some cases, when they reach a lost or injured person at night, they make camp and wait for daylight.

Peeler said Grudger’s friends, a man and a woman, said they travel around the country kayaking, and were scheduled to fly back home Wednesday night.

Grudger is a resident of Ellijay, Ga., dispatcher-spokeswoman Garrity said.

A Volcano Rescue Team member asked Grudger’s friends, “What do you do when you’re not kayaking?”

“Kayak,” one friend replied.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.