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Cedar City, UT â€“ A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) has again played a significant role in the location and rescue of an outdoors enthusiastâ€”this time a novice woman climber near the Brian Head ski-resort in Southern Utah.
The rescued party was a 47-year-old New Jersey woman, who fell and sustained serious head injuries while hiking and climbing with her family on June 3rd. Her brother, an experienced climber and a local physician from St. George, Utah, was carrying a TerraFixâ„¢406 GPS Personal Locator Beacon, which, when activated, put into motion a Search and Rescue (SAR) operation that eventually led to her being evacuated by helicopter.
Michelle Kline and her husband, Steve Bartolett, 49, were tethered together while alpine climbing about two miles from Brian Head. Bartolett lost his footing, fell and slid down a steep slope. Kline could not hold the weight of her dangling husband and she was pulled over a cliff edge 50 feet onto rocks below and out on a steep snow slope. Bartolett was bruised and sore but otherwise all right after the rope between them broke.
Fortunately, the couple was accompanied by Kline’s brother, Dr. Michael Kline, a highly-experienced outdoorsman, and his eight-year-old son, Austin. Dr. Kline, an internist specializing in pulmonary disease, rapidly climbed down to stabilize his sister, who had struck her head. Upon reaching her, he determined that her situation was grave and imminent, and that assistance was needed. He directed his brother-in-law to activate the TerraFixâ„¢ emergency locator beacon while he hiked out to summon help.
While the satellite call for help was acquired and processed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Dr. Kline located two forest rangers, who called 911 on their cell phone. The police, who received notification and GPS coordinates courtesy of the Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) System Rescues-One monitored by NOAA, dispatched the Iron County Search and Rescue (SAR) team to respond.
Charlie Morris, SAR Commander for Iron County, said because of the very steep (elevation 11,307 feet) and difficult location where Kline was lying, it took roughly two-and-one-half hours for the SAR/EMS crews to physically reach her, then another three hours for a helicopter to be located and properly outfitted to airlift her to a local hospital. (Due to the severity of her injuries, she was transferred to a trauma hospital in Las Vegas.) She suffered multiple skull fractures and a broken vertebra in her neck.
Dr. Kline purchased the TerraFixâ„¢ two years ago because he often hikes or climbs alone. Even though he never thought he would have to use the emergency locator beacon, he always packed it in his backpack where â€œit livesâ€ alongside his first aid kit. He’s pleased that he had the beacon on this trip. â€œIt worked out great. Search and rescue said it made a big difference in their response coordination. They said it got them going earlier even before we placed the 911 call.â€
As for his sister, Dr. Kline had her out walking on a local trail a week later.
PLB rescues on land have only become available since a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) waiver ruling went into effect July 2003 approving the sale and use of PLBs for land use in the United States. Having critical knowledge of the climbers’ location minimized the expense of operating the helicopter and the efforts of the SAR crews. The beacons must be registered with NOAA and they must be used responsibly.
ACR Electronics, Inc., a Cobham plc Company, designs and manufactures a complete line of safety and survival products including EPIRBs, P-ELTs/P-EPIRBs/PLBs, Bridge-based Information Systems, SARTs and safety accessories. The quality systems of this facility have been registered by UL to the ISO 9001:2000 Series Standards. Recognized as the world leader in safety and survival technologies, ACR has provided safety equipment to the aviation and marine industries as well as to the military since 1956.
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