An active weekend in Grand Teton National Park kept rangers and emergency responders exceptionally busy. Park staff handled two search and rescue missions, eight medical calls, including one fatality, and multiple reports of property damage, plus one serious personal injury, in the aftermath of a significant wind event in the Colter Bay area.
Just after 11 p.m. Saturday night, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a report of two overdue hikers in the Pilgrim Creek area. Two park rangers canvased the area and were not able to locate any associated vehicles or the overdue hikers. The rangers determined that the hikers were likely on the Bridger-Teton National Forest and not in Grand Teton National Park, so search efforts were transitioned to Teton County Search and Rescue in coordination with Forest Service personnel. The missing hikers were located in good condition the next morning by Teton County searchers.
Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a report of another overdue party just after 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning. A 38-year-old visitor from Israel was reported missing by his friends when he did not return from a solo day hike. The hiker planned to spend the day in Cascade Canyon and return to his group about 7 p.m. That night, park rangers searched the Jenny and String Lake areas, but did not locate the missing man. A park ranger on a routine backcountry patrol in Cascade Canyon had not received word of any distressed hiker, so rangers decided to begin a ground-based search at first light on Sunday morning. The individual was located uninjured near String Lake around 11 a.m. Sunday.
The overdue Cascade Canyon hiker had met someone on the trail who had crossed Paintbrush Divide, and he decided to give that route a try in sneakers. When the hiker reached the divide, he realized he was not appropriately equipped to cross the steep snow-covered and exposed divide, so he retreated down Leigh Canyon. When it became dark, the hiker decided to stay put for the evening. Park rescuers commend the hiker for making a decision to not try and cross the divide when he realized it may be more challenging than what he was equipped to handle without an ice axe or good mountaineering boots. Rescuers also credit the hiker with making a wise decision to "hunker down" and stay put after dark.
Sunday afternoon at 2:15 p.m., a 74 year-old male visitor from Troy, Michigan had a heart attack while on a ranger-led hike at Swan Lake near Colter Bay. The park ranger naturalist leading the hike immediately realized what was happening and initiated CPR while also alerting emergency responders of the situation. Six park rangers and one Jackson Hole Fire/EMS employee responded to the scene, which was just over one mile from the Hermitage Point trailhead. After nearly one hour of CPR, the individual could not be revived and was pronounced dead. The gentleman's body was turned over to the Teton County Coroner.
Just after emergency personnel returned back to Colter Bay following the cardiac arrest, a significant wind event occurred knocking down or breaking over 100 live trees. The most significant damage occurred in the Colter Bay Campground and RV Park. Three or four trees struck vehicles, and a tree branch struck a 30-year-old German woman, causing life-threatening injuries. The branch was estimated to be 40 feet long with a diameter of over 10 inches. The injured female was transported by park ambulance to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson before being flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.
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