Hiker fires gun to help lead rescuers
Man found in Olympic National Park after 150-foot fall breaks ankle
Saturday, September 1, 2012
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK -- The sound of a .45- caliber pistol fired by a stranded, injured hiker in Olympic National Park alerted searchers to his location in a canyon clearing hidden by trees, park officials and the hiker said Thursday.
Tim Bailey, 32, of Mountlake Terrace said he fired his pistol intermittently from Monday until he was found Wednesday and hoisted out of the ravine by helicopter.
He started with 14 rounds.
"I have five left," Bailey said in a telephone interview as he and his wife, Whitney, 31, drove home Thursday.
Bailey, who was reported overdue last Sunday, was found at the bottom of a ravine near the North Fork of the Sol Duc River suffering from a broken ankle that he splinted with foam from his backpack and strips of fabric from his tent.
An experienced hiker, he was on a three-day hike when he tried to traverse the wall of a drainage ravine late Saturday afternoon, slipped on loose dirt, and tumbled 150 feet down the ravine, landing in a small clearing near a creek.
Although he broke his ankle in his head-over-heels descent, he may have been protected from more serious injuries by a sleeping pad he'd secured behind his neck 30 seconds before his long slide to the bottom, he said.
"I ended up having some cushioning for my head," he recalled.
As Bailey slid, he tried grabbing trees but rotated away as he gathered speed.
"Then I just gave a serious prayer to God and said, 'Help me.' I had a sense of peace. I said, 'If this is death, I'll be fine. I know I'm in God's hands.'"
He landed on a 10-foot-wide clearing near a creek, splinted his ankle -- he kept his tarp for shelter -- and gathered wood for a fire he kept constantly stoked.
Bailey had brought a lighter, matches and extra food.
He built a bed with bark and moss.
On Wednesday, rescuers on the ground heard what sounded like a gunshot and directed a HiLine Helicopters aircraft, with National Park Service personnel on board, to the area where the noise came from, park spokeswoman Rainey McKenna said.
Searchers located Bailey at 3:35 p.m. Saturday by detecting smoke from the fire, she said.
It is legal to carry firearms in the park but illegal to discharge them inside the park for any reason, she said.
"If you are legally licensed to carry a firearm in Washington, it is legal to carry it in the park," McKenna said. The punishment for firing a weapon can be up to six months in jail and $5,000.
"Charges could be pressed against someone, but it is unlikely if they are in a dire situation," she said.
"In this situation, it was a very dire situation, and he used his weapon as a last resort. A whistle would have worked just as well," McKenna added.
Bailey had recently taken a four-day defensive handgun class.
"I figured the only reason I would fire this would be an emergency," said Bailey. "And I'd rather spend time in a small cell with three squares than not come home."