First responders trekked deep into the woods on the Aspetuck/Saugatuck Trail off Den Road March 16 to rescue a snowshoer thought to be having a heart attack.
Some of the rescuers became exhausted after hiking two miles through knee-deep snow and required help getting back out of the woods themselves.
The drama unfolded when Easton police received a 911 call from a man who said he was snowshoeing with two friends, and one of them was having a heart attack, police Chief James Candee said.
The call came in at 12:02 p.m., but it took until 12:39 for the rescuers to meet up with the man’s friend and until 1 p.m. for him to show them the way to make contact with the victim. The second friend stayed with him.
The victim, a 61-year-old Fairfield man, was conscious and breathing when the rescuers arrived and fortunately did not have a heart attack, Chief Candee said. He did have a medical emergency, and he might have been dehydrated, according to the chief.
The biggest challenge was getting two miles into the woods in six to eight inches of snow as quickly as possible, Chief Candee said.
Easton police and fire officials, Volunteer Emergency Medical Service personnel, and an Aquarion officer with snowshoes immediately responded. A state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection conservation officer stopped to help, and later a second DEEP conservation officer arrived from Derby with an ATV, Chief Candee said.
Weston fire officials responded with an ATV and American Medical Response (AMR) paramedic. West Redding fire officials later responded with an ATV to help the rescuers out of the woods along with the DEEP officer.
The Easton Fire Department responded with a fire truck initially. Once they got there, firefighters decided they needed their four-wheel drive truck, Chief Candee said.
A second call was put out for a four-wheel-drive fire truck, but once it got there, it was able to get only a quarter-mile into the woods due to the narrowness of the trail, Chief Candee said.
Sgt. Jonathan Arnold set up a command center at the entrance to the trail, accompanied by Chief Candee, Easton police Capt. Richard Doyle and Weston fire Chief John Pokorny, and they kept in constant contact with the rescuers.
Easton Officer Tom Ceccarelli, Aquarion captain Robert Cedergren, who had snowshoes, Easton firefighter David Davies, and the DEEP conservation officer entered the woods on foot as soon as they arrived, before the Weston ATV and paramedic got there, Chief Candee said.
The Weston crew soon followed them into the woods. The victim was successfully extricated on the Weston ATV with the paramedic and taken to the hospital. The victim’s two companions walked out of the woods on their snowshoes about a half-hour later, Chief Candee said.
But the rescue crews who had hiked or snowshoed into the woods on foot were exhausted. Sgt. Arnold requested additional mutual aid. A second DEEP conservation officer came from Derby with an ATV on a trailer.
The West Redding Fire Department responded with its ATV and three firefighters, who followed the trail to retrieve the rescuers along with the DEEP officer and ATV.
“Everything worked out well, and everyone got out safe and sound,” Chief Candee said. “It ended on a high note, and there were no injuries. I wouldn’t recommend walking in there anytime by yourself, even in the summer.”
The fact that the snowshoers were experienced, were well-equipped with snowshoes, poles and cell phones, and there were three of them contributed to the positive outcome, he said.
“I’ve got to commend Sgt. Arnold, who ran the whole show and did a great job organizing the situation without any problems,” Chief Candee said.