Date of Incident: September 30, 1999
Section of River: Labyrinth Canyon
Location on River: Fort Bottom, Mile 41.5
Relative Flow: N/A
Gage Reading: N/A
Type of Incident: Illness
Injuries: Kidney Stones
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: Canoes
A 56 year old woman on an extended canoe trip became ill during the night of September 29-30 with symptoms resembling those of appendicitis. Two members of her party sought to report her condition and paddled a canoe upstream from their camp on an island at Fort Bottom, to Hardscrabble Bottom where they knew the White Rim Road was present, but where they did not know their own adventure would commence.
It was dark, but a camper was up at Hardscrabble Bottom, and the messengers hoped they could obtain a ride to the BLM Ranger Station at Mineral Bottom. However, the camper had read of two fugitives still at large in the region from a recent shooting and killing near Cortez, Colorado, and was suspicious. The camper held a hand gun (which is illegal to possess in the Park), and although he did not point it at the messengers, he did refuse assistance beyond indicating the direction to Mineral Bottom. So, the messengers walked 10 miles in the dark, arriving at Mineral Bottom at dawn. Much to their dismay the BLM Ranger Station was not occupied and they waited until a pickup truck arrived with a horse trailer. The cab of the truck was filled, but the driver agreed to drive them to the Park Service Ranger Station at The Island In The Sky. They rode with the horses in the trailer and reported the situation at 08:00 on the morning of September 30.
A helicopter was dispatched to transport the patient to the hospital. The Park Service transported the messengers back to Hardscrabble Bottom and the continuation of their trip. Later in the day the patient passed kidney stones at the hospital.
1) You don't take chances with symptoms; you must react for the worst possible scenario. You can't risk guessing kidney stones when it might be appendicitis.
2) The camper at Hardscrabble Bottom was under no obligation to assist the messengers. The situation was not his problem. The Park Service could have prosecuted him for having a gun. However, he didn't use it in a threatening manner, but rather as a demonstration that he had protection. A conviction could probably have been achieved, but sentiment is still high against those who killed the police officer near Cortez, and public sympathy would side with the camper.
3) The messengers had a long day!