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Rescuers rappel 20-ft bluff to rescue injured hiker


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    COMPTON, Arkansas (KFSM) — The National Park Service, along with numerous local agencies and volunteers, worked to rescue an injured park visitor at Buffalo National River on Saturday (Feb. 27).

A 60-year-old Bella Vista man was hiking with his son in a remote part of the Ponca Wilderness area when he suffered an injury and was unable to hike out on his own.

After assessing the injury, responding park rangers decided to start the rescue on the following morning, Sunday (Feb. 28), due to heavy fog, a severe thunderstorm moving through the area and the time of day.

Overnight gear was taken to the hikers Saturday so that they could shelter in place, and a multi-agency rescue team met at Compton Trailhead on Sunday morning to coordinate the rescue.

To avoid a six-mile carryout, the team rappelled down a twenty-foot bluff, placing the patient into an emergency rescue basket.

While remaining in the emergency rescue basket, the injured hiker was hauled up a vertical cliff and then moved up 100-feet of steep terrain to the trail at the top of the bluff.

He was then transported by a wheeled litter carrier approximately one-mile to a rescue vehicle before being transported to the hospital by his family members.

Cassie Branstetter, Branch Chief of Interpretation, Buffalo National River said, “The rescue would not have been possible without the collaboration of local agencies and volunteers, including the Mennonite Disaster Service, Harrison Fire Department, Buffalo National River Search and Rescue, Newton County Sheriff’s Office, and the private landowner that allowed rescuers to access the scene from his property.”

Buffalo National River encompasses over 95,000 acres and hundreds of miles of trails.

“It is important to be prepared before hiking, including being aware of weather and terrain conditions,” said Branstetter.

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