Published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette:
By GREG SAULMON
Saturday, August 15, 2015
ASHFIELD — A 13-year-old boy was taken to Baystate Medical Center by helicopter after an 80-foot slide down a steep slope at Chapel Brook reservation on Williamsburg Road Saturday afternoon.
Deputy Chief Adam Baker of the Conway Fire Department said the boy slid from an area at the top of Pony Mountain.
“It was a slide, and not a straight fall,” Baker said.
Ashfield Fire Chief Del Haskins said the boy was semiconscious when rescuers reached him and started coming to as they started packaging him to get him off the mountain.
“Looked like he was badly hurt. We’re not doctors or anything, but falling 80 feet off a ledge, it could be anything,” Haskins said.
Haskins didn’t know the boy’s condition once he left the mountain and Highland Ambulance had no comment except to confirm their presence.
The incident was reported around 3 p.m., and the response involved high-angle rescue specialists and units from a number of area fire and police departments, including Conway, Ashfield, Goshen, Greenfield, Turners Falls and state police. Members of the Western Massachusetts Tech Rescue Team arrived later.
Greenfield resident Otis Wheeler, who was at the summit at the time of the incident and called 911 to summon first responders, described the victim as a boy of 13 who was hiking with his family. Haskins said the boy was with his parents and brother. He believed they were visiting the area rather than residents, due to their rental car.
“We heard something, and then we heard — I believe the boy’s father — calling out his name,” Wheeler said.
The boy didn’t answer the group’s calls to him, Wheeler said, adding, “We didn’t know if he was OK, or what had happened.”
Another hiker found the boy a short time later, Wheeler said.
“We were very worried, immediately, because we were basically looking at one of the steepest parts — not the very steepest, but probably the second steepest,” Wheeler said of the area where the boy fell.
A 100-foot rock face on Pony Mountain, known as Chapel Ledge, is popular with rock climbers. Wheeler said the boy slid down a slope near the ledge.
“When I was on the on the phone with them they asked how far I thought he fell; I said maybe 20 feet, maybe as much as 50 feet if he kept falling,” Wheeler said.
Haskins said Pony Mountain is popular with rock climbers. “It’s well-known and they do a lot of rock climbing, but he had no safety stuff on or anything, just playing around, it sounds like, and fell over,” Haskins said.
A few people have been flown away over the years and someone died there many years ago, Haskins said.
The boy was taken by Highland Ambulance from the trailhead to a field at Ludwig and Williamsburg roads, where the LifeFlight helicopter touched down shortly before 4:30 p.m. The helicopter left with the boy aboard a short time later.
Recorder staff contributed to this report.
Photos from MassLive.com
LONGMEADOW – A worker has died after becoming trapped in a water-filled trench while working on a sewer project, and police are now looking into why the accident happened.
Longmeadow Town Manager Stephen Crane told 22News that at around 7:45 A.M., a call went out about an accident inside the trench that was dug out on Hazardville Road, at the corner of Tedford Drive. Crane said that a water main had broken there, and the trench filled with water.
Police Chief John Stankiewicz told 22News that following an hours-long recovery operation, the worker’s body was pulled from the trench at around noontime Friday.
The trench had been dug out as part of a town sewer replacement project. Crane said that the worker was a member of a crew from Ludlow-based construction firm A. Martins & Sons, which has been working on the project.
Representatives from the office of the state medical examiner are at the accident site, and state troopers, Longmeadow police, and OSHA are looking into the cause.
Paul Lamb, a trainer for Sensit Technologies of Valparaiso, Indiana, left, demonstrates a gas detection instrument for members of Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team at the Columbia Gas of Massachusetts maintenance depot in Easthampmton, August 15, 2014. Team members visible from left: team director William Selkirk, assistant chief, district two, South Hadley Fire Department, rescue technician Sandi Kraus, a firefighter with the Easthampton Fire Department, Chicopee Fire Department Captain David Beauregard, team assistant training and safety officer and Westfield Fire Department Captain Rebecca Boutin, team training and safety coordinator. (Michael S. Gordon / The Republican)
Published on MassLive.com
By George Graham | firstname.lastname@example.org
on August 15, 2014
Members of the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue team are now better prepared to conduct confined space rescues thanks to to Columbia Gas of Massachusetts.
The company donated three natural gas combustible indicators – and provided the training to safely use them. Confined spaces pose can pose safety challengers to rescuers because they can contain hazardous materials in gas or liquid form. The donation of the state-of-the-art detectors, which monitor air for the displacement of oxygen and the presence of toxic or explosive gases, allows members of the team to perform an initial assessment of the air before they enter the confined space.
Andrea Luppi, manager of communications and community relations for Columbia Gas, said the Sensit Gold G2 detectors are valued at $1,500 apiece.“This is really great,” said William Selkirk, director of the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team and assistant chief of the South Hadley District 2 Fire Department. “They are doing a great thing for us. It’s really a big deal.”
The team, which has about 80 members from fire departments across Western Massachusetts, formed about a year ago and has been operational since January. It is comprised of three separate units that serve Hampden, Berkshire and Hampshire/Franklin counties So far, team members have earned technical certification for high angle, steep slope and confined space rescue, said Westfield Fire Capt. Rebecca Boutin, who also serves as safety and training coordinator for the team.
The team has deployed five times and its work has included several rescues on Mount Skinner and aiding in the emergency response for a Vermont woman who lost her life while tubing in the Deerfield River in Conway. Selkirk said. Selkirk, Boutin and several firefighters from Holyoke and Chicopee received the indicators and a two-hour training in their use at the Columbia Gas facility on Industrial Parkway.
Published in the Greenfield Recorder:
By David Rainville
July 17, 2014
ERVING — A rock climber was taken to the hospital by helicopter after falling 30 feet and landing on his face Thursday.
Fire Capt. Mitchell LaClair Sr. said the man, approximately 50 years old, did not have any apparent broken bones or other serious injuries.
“He had a loss of consciousness for a short period of time,” LaClair said. “He had several bumps and bruises, as well as neck and back pain.”
By the time firefighters reached him, he had regained consciousness and seemed alert, LaClair said.
The patient had been climbing the Farley Ledges, a popular rock climbing spot, with others and was just about to hook his safety line onto an anchor in the rock face when he slipped, said LaClair.
Though he missed the anchor point, the patient was tied off to another climber who helped to break his fall.
“It wasn’t a true free-fall,” LaClair explained.
The captain said the climber was wearing a helmet and all the appropriate safety gear for rock climbing.
“He was no amateur,” he said.
Knowing the area and the steep climb that leads to the ledges, LaClair said he called in the Franklin County Technical Rescue Team as soon as the call came in at about 4:30 p.m. The team is spearheaded by the Turners Falls and Greenfield fire departments, and has members from other departments as well.
LaClair also called the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team, from Hampshire and Hamden counties, placing them on standby. The Orange Fire Department and Gill Police also assisted.
“We had about 35 or 36 members of various departments on the scene to help with extrication,” LaClair said.
“It took about 15 minutes just to hike to the patient,” he said. “It’s quite a hike. A lot of it is nearly vertical, and we have a lot of equipment to carry.
“We had to bring him down with ropes and slings,” LaClair continued. “It took a couple hours just to get him out of the woods.”
Because of the lengthy extrication, LaClair had the LifeFlight helicopter ambulance land and stand by at the Northfield Mountain visitors center.
The closer landing zone, he said, is Route 2. Since the rescue took place when many people were headed home from work, LaClair had the helicopter wait until the patient was brought down to the road.
“Once he was extricated, the pilot took off, popped over the hill and set down on Route 2,” he said.
The patient was flown to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.
At press time, LaClair said he was still gathering information about the incident, and did not yet have a town of residence for the man.
Broadcast on WWLP.com
CONWAY — Firefighters worked until dusk Sunday evening to recover the body of a woman presumed to have drowned in a tubing accident in the Deerfield River.
Conway Fire Chief Robert Baker said a group of six or seven people were tubing immediately below TransCanada’s Deerfield Number 2 hydro plant dam when one woman was drawn into a vortex or fell.
At 7:45 p.m., Baker said the woman had been underwater for about an hour and a half, but said the effort was still a rescue operation.
Baker said he believed the group was from out of state. Baker identified the victim as, a woman about 26 years old, but he couldn’t say more.
Baker said the area below the dam is not a common one for inner-tubing and is dangerous.
Divers waited for the flow over the dam to stop in order to enter the turbulent water but ultimately, Baker said, an uncontrolled dam upstream released water, raising the water level instead of lowering it.
“They searched under water as far as they could but they only had two feet of visibility,” Baker said, and the current became worse with every foot.
The water between the dam and a small rock island is about 25 feet deep and very dangerous, he said.
Multiple agencies assisted Conway, including emergency departments from Greenfield, Turners Falls, Charlemont and Shelburne and the Northfield Dive Rescue Team.
At about 9 p.m., Baker said the search was now a recovery operation and will resume Monday at 6 a.m. The dam is at the base of Power Company Access Road, an extension of Wilder Hill Road.
Published in the Amherst Bulletin:
By DEBRA SCHERBAN
Thursday, May 29, 2014
HADLEY — An Amherst woman, who tripped on a rocky hiking trail May 29 on Mount Holyoke and rolled 100 feet downhill before getting hung up on a tree, is feeling lucky after being rescued by Hadley firefighters.
“I’m alive with only a couple of broken ribs. That’s pretty good,” Margaret A. Halbeisen, of Memorial Drive, said from her home. “I’m very, very grateful to the Hadley Fire Department emergency rescue squad. Those young men are amazing.”
Halbeisen, 61, who was alone at Skinner State Park, used her cellphone to call 911 at 8:18 a.m. after she tumbled over the steep cliff on a trail to the Summit House called the Halfway Trail. Rescuers used a Stokes basket, a bed-type harness and ropes, to get her back up the mountain and into an ambulance shortly before 10 a.m., said Hadley Fire Chief Michael Spanknebel. He said the trail has a 60 percent grade.
Emergency workers from Amherst, Chicopee, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton and South Hadley, including seven members of the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team, were on hand to assist, but ended up standing by while Hadley firefighters conducted the rescue, Spanknebel said.
There were about two dozen responders at the scene, including six representatives from the Department of Conservation and Recreation and one state police officer.
Halbeisen, an avid birder and occasional hiker, was climbing toward the Summit House to see if she could spot a cerulean warbler, a bird she says is rarely seen anywhere else in the area. She had arrived by car at the paved mountain road at 7:30 a.m. expecting that the gate would open at 8 a.m. But when she saw the sign indicating it wouldn’t open until 9 a.m., she decided she would walk instead. Partway up, she came to the dirt Halfway Trail on the right and decided to take that short cut instead, despite its rocky, rutted terrain.
“Off I went, stupidly, it turns out, because I was alone.”
But she had her hiking pole and was nearly to the top when she found herself rolling down a steep slope. Halbeisen said she doesn’t know what made her fall, though she suspects she tripped on a rock or a root. A tree stopped her.
“I lucked out,” she said, though her legs were tangled in the tree and she was turned nearly headfirst down the mountain.
“I was hanging in a weird position,” she said. Halbeisen struggled to get her cellphone out of her pocket and then called 911. While she waited for help to arrive, the retired science teacher kept her mind occupied by trying to identify bird songs she heard. She said she was not afraid once she knew help was on the way.
Having her phone on hand was another lucky break, she said, as she does not usually carry it on her hikes. “It was providence,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done without it.”
She said a Hadley police officer arrived first and talked to her from the trail above until a second rescuer arrived and rappelled down to stay at her side until other firefighters could get into position to lift her up.
“They were wonderful,” she said.
Spanknebel said Halbeisen appeared to be unhurt when rescuers found her. “She was in good spirits,” he said.
But once in the hospital emergency room, Halbeisen learned she had broken ribs as well as cuts and bruises.
“It could have been much, much worse to say the least,” she said. Halbeisen said her regular group workouts at the Aerobics and Fitness Studio in Amherst helped her. “A nurse in the ER told me that it’s a good thing that I lift weights because that strengthened the muscles of my back, my shoulders, my core. It protected me from getting more seriously hurt.”
Spanknebel said a rescue similar to Halbeisen’s was conducted at one of the Skinner Park trails less than two weeks ago, when a hiker stumbled and fell in an area that was not quite as steep. He said it was fortunate that Halbeisen had a cellphone with her and he urged hikers to carry them with them on treks. Also, he cautioned hikers to rethink their plans if they feel uneasy with the grade or the rocky terrain at the state park.
He said the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team, which is funded by the federal Department of Homeland Security, is specially trained and equipped to help with all types of rescues to take the strain off local police and fire departments. It draws on 84 responders from Western Massachusetts Communities, said Northampton Fire Capt. John Garriepy, the team leader for the Hampshire County Division. Garriepy, who was at Skinner State Park on Thursday, said the call goes out to at least 20 members whenever an incident like Thursday’s occurs. A large red truck filled with equipment such as ropes, harnesses and helmets is brought to the scene, he said.
Spanknebel said that in the end, manpower was needed more than specialized equipment for Halbeisen’s rescue.
“I just want to thank everybody,” he said. “Mutual aid in this area is enormous.”
As for Halbeisen, she can’t heap enough praise on her saviors. “They are 100 percent fabulous. I wish I could send each and every one of them a card of thanks.”
Originally published in the Holyoke Sun
By Kristin Will
June 17, 2013
HOLYOKE – Firefighters from four Western Massachusetts counties are literally learning the ropes of technical rescue thanks to a grant from the Homeland Security Advisory Council.
Initially formed in 2012, the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team [WMTRT] will assist regional fire departments called to confined space, trench, high-angle and building collapse rescues.
“This is a large component that we were missing here at this end of the state,” said South Hadley Fire District No. 2 Chief David Keefe. Local fire chiefs met three years ago to initiate the team’s formation. Grants received from the Department of Public Health, Department of Homeland Security, Springfield Carpenters Union and local labor councils propelled the team forward in 2012.
Having trained throughout the year, WMTRT Director and South Hadley Fire District No. 2 Assistant Chief Bill Selkirk said the team will be ready to rescue in a few months. “This is a huge asset,” he said. “There are teams all over the state. It’s not a new concept. We just never had one.” The WMTRT consists of nearly 100 firefighters spanning towns and cities in Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin and Berkshire counties. Sub groups consist of approximately 30 firefighters.“This team is available to any fire department in Western Massachusetts,” said Selkirk.
Three trailers of rope rescue gear and safety equipment will be placed at three fire stations in Amherst, Holyoke and Northampton, ready to go at a moments notice. Subgroups of the team will be dispatched to incidents through the Amherst Fire Department. Fire Departments in towns and cities in which an incident occurs will call Amherst, who will then use a dispatch system called I Am Responding. The text message-based system will shoot bursts of texts to WMTRT members nearest the emergency scene. “Not every department has the equipment or training to be able to handle an operation like this,” said Agawam Fire Fighter R.J. Pensivy. “We’re here to help regionally.”
Funding to support the team is a major reason why no such group previously formed. Amherst has a technical rescue team that often assists fire departments locally. For South Hadley, the Amherst team often assists with rescues on the Mount Holyoke Range. “It’s needed,” said Agawam Fire Fighter Bob LaFrance. Josh Mullen, of the Wilbraham Fire Department, agreed. “We’re kind of sparsely populated out here,” he said. Previously, if an incident occurred where a rope rescue was needed, “there was no mechanism” in place to quickly assist.
“I just love doing this,” said Mullen. “It’s a natural extension of what I do normally.” Mullen was among a sub group of firefighters who attended a training session Wednesday in Holyoke, including firefighters from Agawam, Chicopee, Holyoke, Ludlow, Springfield and Wilbraham.
Fire fighters scaled the Dwight Street parking garage, learning how to safely and properly descend and ascend a makeshift concrete mountain. “When tornado went through, there was a large amount of building collapses. That’s where a team like this comes in,” said Selkirk. Other examples of instances to which the team would respond include workers stuck atop cell phone towers and window washers stuck on tall buildings. So to will they respond to hikers caught in crevices or caves. “We have a bunch of great people on the team,” said Selkirk, who called his appointment as director a compliment. “All fire departments should know this team exists.”
View From Above. A rappelling trainer dangles some 40 feet above the ground as western Massachusetts firefighters study her technique, awaiting their turn.
Originally published in Smith College News
BY ERIC WELD; PHOTOS BY JUDITH ROBERGE
Published June 3, 2013
The Smith parking garage on West Street stood in for a new purpose last week when western Massachusetts firefighters rappelled down its exterior walls in a training exercise. The rappel training is part of the preparation of a new unit, the Regional Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team, which is composed of firefighters from Hampshire, Franklin, Berkshire and Hampden counties, explained Daryl Springman, a Northampton firefighter and assistant team leader for the local division.
The team members will be specially qualified to conduct rescue operations at high altitudes and angles, or pulling someone out of a confined space, for example, Springman said. The campus parking facility provided an ideal training structure with its concrete walls, open spaces and central location. “It’s great to be able to have access to a facility like that,” said Springman. “Smith College has been great.”
The May 29 training involved team instructors. A larger contingent of team members will return to campus on Wednesday, June 5, for another round of rappel training.