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Rad

Hood accident lawsuit

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Washington Post article

This is disturbing on several levels. First and foremost, a young man died. Second, the family is seeking financial gain from an emergency response situation where there doesn't seem to be a clear case of negligence. Third, fallout of the lawsuit may be mis-guided regulations on climbers, as happened with PLB legislation in Oregon following a tragic accident about a decade ago.

As climbers, we take risks. Shit happens. Timely rescue is not guaranteed.  We and our heirs need to accept these things. Hopefully. this lawsuit will get thrown out. 

It's an interesting topic for discussion in any case.

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I think 2 things pop out of this story:

#1 Even in a close proximity to civilization (like Mt Hood), within cell phone coverage, you are on your own. Particularly in a case of an accident. Many ski accidents have occurred just outside of ski areas boundaries (like one near Steven's Pass a few years back), when response time is still relatively long. 

#2 Maybe it's time to have a specialized units (similar to dive rescue unit for underwater search, rescue and recovery) that are just for mountain rescue?  That would include specialized helicopter, with properly trained crew. Having seen some of the rescues in the past, a lot of people lack fitness and knowledge in mountain terrain to safely perform rescues in technical terrain, including alpine. In the Alps rescues are done by specialized teams, with specific training, and fitness level requirements are high and rescuers are constantly being evaluated. 

Reading it, actually there is a pretty good case for this lawsuit. Sounds like the helicopter delay was primary cause for death before reaching the hospital. And to say "shit happens" is simple bullshit. Imagine a road accident, where there is a 2 hour delay with response to an incident, and a person died. 

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14 minutes ago, glassgowkiss said:

Imagine a road accident, where there is a 2 hour delay with response to an incident, and a person died. 

We have dedicated resources to respond to traffic accidents.  That isn't the case with mountain rescue locally.  We're all volunteers and there is no guarantees that helo resources will be shaken free.  And in this case there was some uncertainty on the urgency of the request.  The people at the scene seemed to think he was pretty much OK but unable to walk out on his own power.  In that instance a ground evac is often selected as the military doesn't like to put crews at risk unless there is a clear case of life/death on the line.

If we want to move to the Euro model, it could get expensive real quick to go on climbs, at least if you want a prompt rescue.  And, if we go to that model, would the volunteer mountain rescue units be disbanded?  It's a can of worms for sure.

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The original 911 call didn't convey the urgent need for heli evac because, at the admission of the caller, they didn't appreciate how serious the situation was. It's unclear if a faster response could have changed the outcome. What counts is not time to helicopter but time to surgery if there is internal bleeding pressing on vital organs. See below.

A friend's son was crew on a private boat in SE Alaska. They stopped and everyone went for a short hike. He apparently slipped and fell about 20 feet while trying to take a leak on a steep section. He became increasingly short of breath during the hike back and collapsed and lost consciousness upon arrival at the boat. He died. Autopsy revealed that he'd had a bleed into the pericardium in what's known as Cardiac tamponade. In simpler terms, blood or fluid in the sac around the heart compresses the heart and it stops beating. I suspect that, or something similar, is what happened to this poor young man on Hood.

@glassgowkiss I agree with #1. #2 would be great if there were funding and expertise to pull it off. Rescue in the US is run by law enforcement (County Sheriff's Office) with support from volunteers, military, and sometimes specially trained staff as in North Cascades or Mt Rainier or Yosemite.

A 2 hour delay to a road accident response is unreasonable. But what about 45 minutes if there is bad traffic, or you're in a rural site, or your accident has been put on low priority because the initial call didn't indicate that it warranted the most urgent response and the response team was at another accident? Defining what is reasonable is not always easy.

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1 hour ago, ScaredSilly said:

A while back the NPS was sued for allegedly failing to initiate a search in a timely fashion.  The plaintiffs lost on summary judgement.

https://openjurist.org/949/f2d/332/johnson-v-united-states-department-of-interior

An excellent read. Thank you for linking the primary source. Two quotes stand out:

First, the Court acknowledges that, "The climbing community appreciates the inherent danger of the sport and is perceived to value the individual freedom of a backcountry experience." and this ruling in many ways upholds the right of climbers to preserve that freedom.

Second, the closing sentence makes me smile:  "The record in this case may have been more helpful to the court had both counsel devoted more time and effort developing the facts and less time and effort squabbling with each other"

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I've lost friends up there but as far as I'm concerned, crag or mountain, if you take that first step then it's entirely on you regardless of the outcome and that's whether you get rescued or not or get rescued in time or not.

Edited by JosephH
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great topic!   speaking from the perspective of 40 years (yes, you read correctly - I'm OLD) of mountain rescue work, both professional (USNPS) and volunteer, I'd offer that in my experience, having a helicopter on site within five hours is actually somewhat quicker than the norm.  Often the chopper doesn't show till the following day, and that is weather permitting - some days you can't fly a helicopter in the mountains.  those unfamiliar with mountaineering may expect response times like you see for highway accidents, but such expectations are utterly unrealistic.  When I was avalanched off Colchuck Peak eight years ago, it took nearly twelve hours just to locate a helicopter that could perform the evacuation.  I was lucky to have well-qualified responders  (four Afganistan vets) on site to keep me alive until the bird arrived.

this report also illustrates how even md's and paramedics can miss "sleeper" injuries that can be pretty much invisible, but suddenly go bad in minutes - like the example of cardiac tamponade mentioned above.  bleeds in the brain can do the same thing -- no indication until suddenly its too late.  A professional ski patrol I worked with back in the eighties once got a call from an e.r. MD asking why we'd sent him a perforated kidney with no warning.  We hadn't identified the injury or warned the doc because the woman had shown no symptoms of such abdominal injury (she'd hit a tree).  we'd thought we were sending him a spinal injury.  She did not die, but it was close.

one trouble with this kind of lawsuit is that if the suit is won, it means that money that might be used to buy/maintain helicopters, and train/retain personnel, gets awarded to the successful plaintiff.  and even if the suit is unsuccessful, that same money gets used to defend the agencies being sued.  seems like a lose/lose proposition to me...

I'd also like to hear more comment on whether a ground evacuation might have been attempted.  with a number of medics and first responders on site offering to help, why weren't they moving him down towards Timberline?   for me, that's a bigger question than the delay of the helicopter...   but I wasn't there...

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I feel bad for the family but can't understand the lawsuit.  It reminds me of the Dennis Miller comment on Dale Earnhardt's death, he couldn't understand why people were suprised... "people were acting like, I can't believe it. One minute there he was bobbing and weaving among the other cars, on an oil slicked track and then....just gone."  He was climbing on a snow and ice covered volcano.  How safe does that sound?  

If you're going to go chase the creature, uummm...look out.  That goes for anyone of us. 

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Rad's right the 911 call was nonchalant and the caller even said "this call may be premature."  It's hard to know if someone is bleeding out.  I remember a guy got lower off the end of his rope at smith and was sitting up then walking within minutes. He packed his stuff, walked out and collapsed in the parking lot and later died. With the crowding and people in the woods these days a 911 disbatcher has to be prudent with resources so they don't mIss a real rescue.  

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This is for the family who I'm sure is reading this

"He died doing what he loved, ruining it for everyone"

Drop the lawsuit and give your child some dignity in his death.

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The question still remains, why these isn't a specialized unit in handling these things?  Relying on volunteers is pure horseshit. Volunteers can assist and be a great asset to improve things, but it would be exactly like staffing ED with hospital volunteers and expecting good outcomes. And the fact is, that in field you can't really assess the scope of injuries beyond very basics. I know several Whatcom County volunteer SAR members, and not a single one would be capable of doing any assistance in technical or semi-technical alpine due to lack of fitness and lack of technical knowledge. 

There is ZERO reason to re-invent the wheel.- just look and copy existing systems in countries, where climbing was established for a long time. Climbing is increasing in popularity, hence the number of accidents will just keep going up. Just by listening to the 911 calls this was purely the case of lack of training and complete lack of even understanding the situation by the dispatcher and Sheriffs. Unfortunately in this country nothing will change, unless there are $$$ we are talking, so probably this lawsuit is the only way to start changing the system. Probably NPS has best systems in place and best training at the moment. The rest of the areas is amateur crap-basically you are on your own!

Saying 

On 5/21/2018 at 4:04 PM, layton said:

"He died doing what he loved, ruining it for everyone"

is pure crap. Nobody sane goes climbing thinking "I might die today". Shit happens. Whether it was lack of technical ability in his case or just bad luck is completely irrelevant. Hope that this death would start a process of improvement in the system, when luck runs out or I get over my head. 

Edited by glassgowkiss

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i think you missed the ironic twist there at the end of Layton's qoute.

"volunteers".  enough said. litigious society.

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On 5/17/2018 at 11:44 AM, JasonG said:

 

If we want to move to the Euro model, it could get expensive real quick to go on climbs, at least if you want a prompt rescue.  And, if we go to that model, would the volunteer mountain rescue units be disbanded?  It's a can of worms for sure.

The other way around. If the system stays in place the system will get more and more expensive, and further restrictions will follow. In healthcare you specialize response for a reason- it's more efficient, hence cheaper. There is no difference here. 

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24 minutes ago, glassgowkiss said:

it's more efficient, hence cheaper

Volunteers are pretty cheap.

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35 minutes ago, glassgowkiss said:

The rest of the areas is amateur crap

The members of the Mountain Rescue Units in the area would beg to differ.  We're not as skilled as euro professionals, but we are quite a bit better than crap.  There is a big difference from Ground SAR and Mountain Rescue, in my experience.  I think you may be confusing the two.

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50 minutes ago, JasonG said:

Volunteers are pretty cheap.

So how much is a human life worth? Because this line of reasoning always puts a price tag on it. So I want to know how much human life costs? 

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1 hour ago, JasonG said:

The members of the Mountain Rescue Units in the area would beg to differ.  We're not as skilled as euro professionals, but we are quite a bit better than crap.  There is a big difference from Ground SAR and Mountain Rescue, in my experience.  I think you may be confusing the two.

Yes it's crap. Look at Coastguard or look at Airport Firefighters. Both are prime examples of services required for specific types of rescues. In both cases the whole system is completely designed from ground up and has nothing to do with normal emergency response. Listen to the soundtrack of 911 call linked above. The dispatcher has no idea, she is not asking the right questions, she basically has no clue to what is going on. It's not the caller's fault, it's the dispatcher, who is not asking right questions. It's lack of training. Anyone working in critical care will tell you that if you are working with missing information is because you did not ask right questions. It's friggin 21 century, time to come out of dark ages. 

Last Saturday there was a paragliding accident at Saddle Mountain. Pretty sure 100% pilot's fault (I did not see the accident, but saw him taking off- but this is different topic). Heli picked him up in less then 1 hour from the time of the incident. There was pretty easy ground access, but there was a possibility of spinal injury- hence pretty quick heli transport. One would think that a 600ft cartwheel tumble on a slope would raise possibility of spinal injury (besides internal injuries) resulting in need for heli rescue to avoid potential damage to the vitctim from ground transport? 

Edited by glassgowkiss

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9 minutes ago, JasonG said:

You haven't changed a bit @glassgowkiss

Well, the system worked great for this guy, didn't it. Wonder what would you say if it was one of your family members?

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1 minute ago, glassgowkiss said:

Wonder what would you say if it was one of your family members?

There are no guarantees in this life except to die.  I suppose it depends on your outlook of the afterlife as to whether this is a good or bad thing. 

Bottom line is that the Euro system isn't a bad thing, I just don't see the public pushing for it, nor accepting the inevitable increase in regulation/red tape to go climbing.

That said, belittling the efforts of those involved in Mountain Rescue certainly doesn't accomplish anything productive in your quest to remake emergency response in the hills.

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That may be true @olyclimber.  But @glassgowkiss IS drawing the correct parallel.  Fifty plus years ago emergency response for road accidents wasn't well organized, nor did we have 911.  Many people had to get themselves to the hospital, or rely on friends or family if they wanted a speedy trip for help.  Over time though, people were willing to pay higher taxes to improve emergency response and agitated for it, such that by the early 1970s much of what we see today in the roaded areas was in place. 

The same may happen with Mountain Rescue in the PNW if we get the sort of climber density they have in Europe.  Personally, I don't see that happening for at least a few decades. 

 

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