March 4, 2017
Denise Germann, 307 739 3393
Grand Teton National Park rangers and Teton County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue members saved the life of a backcountry skier with resuscitation efforts on Friday evening, March 3.
At approximately 3 p.m. on Friday, March 3, Teton Interagency Dispatch received a call about a backcountry skier that was having significant chest pains and assistance was requested. The reporting party, located on the Southwest Ridge of Maverick Peak in the park, had a cell phone and was able to provide GPS coordinates. The skier, Mike Connolly, age 61, from Idaho Falls, was skiing with three other family members and friends when the incident occurred.
Park rangers requested the Teton County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue helicopter. The helicopter with three county search and rescue members conducted a quick aerial reconnaissance of the area and then landed to configure for a short-haul operation. A park ranger and county member with basic life support equipment were inserted via short-haul to the scene.
Connolly went into cardiac arrest while rescuers were flying to the scene, and as the rescuers arrived, CPR efforts were in progress by the other members of the party. Connolly had no pulse, and was not breathing. Rescue personnel used an automated defibrillator shocking Connolly one time. He successfully regained a pulse and began breathing. A short time later he was able to verbally communicate to those around him.
As resuscitation efforts were being conducted, the helicopter short-hauled additional search and rescue personnel and medical supplies, and a litter to the scene. Search and rescue personnel packaged Connolly to be flown via short-haul to the Portneuf Medical Center Air Ambulance that was located near the north end of the Moose-Wilson Road. Connolly was then transported to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
A family member, search and rescue members, supplies and equipment were short-hauled from the scene. A park ranger skied with the remaining members of the skiing party and safely returned to a trailhead parking area along the Moose-Wilson Road.
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said, “The persistent training and teamwork with the Teton County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue Team helped to obtain the outcome that we always strive to achieve during these incidents. As a result of this well-orchestrated effort, our skier has a very hopeful second chance in life.”
Short-haul is a rescue technique where an individual or gear is suspended below the helicopter on a 150 to 250 foot rope. This method allows a rescuer more direct access to an injured party, and it is often used in the Teton Range where conditions make it difficult to land a helicopter in the steep and rocky terrain.