Bears, Broken Legs Keep Search And Rescue Squad On The Move

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It was a busy holiday weekend for Tonto Rim Search and Rescue volunteers, with a back injury at the Tonto Natural Bridge, a bear scare on Hellsgate Trail and a fall at Fossil Creek.

The weekend accidents kicked off Sunday evening when a man in his 20s fell and injured his leg while hanging out with a group of friends at Fossil Creek near the old power plant location, possibly while drinking.

Around 8 p.m., someone reported a man had broken his leg in the area and was unable to cross back over the creek.

TRSAR volunteers decided they would not be able to successfully carry the man over the 30-foot-wide creek, which is running around waist deep. They decided instead to set up a rope rescue, which uses a series of pulleys to lower a basket, place the victim in and pull him back up. Around eight TRSAR volunteers and five members of the Pine Strawberry Fire Department pulled the man up a 30-foot cliff to safety, said TRSAR Commander Bill Pitterle.

Upon reaching safety, the man reportedly declined further medical attention.

With one successful mission under their belt for the weekend, volunteers got their next call Monday around 2 p.m. when a woman reported seeing a family of black bears while hiking the Hellsgate Trail.

The woman, in her 30s, was hiking alone and was five or six miles down the trail when she came across the bears, Pitterle said.

The bears reportedly made an aggressive move toward her, so she backed away and waited an hour. After waiting, she made another attempt to go around the bears and they made another move toward her.

The woman waited again for the bears to move on and decided to call Game and Fish to report the bears.

“(Game and Fish) went out on quads and they could not find her,” Pitterle said.

“After they looked for a while, they called us.”

Pitterle and other volunteers were just about to begin searching for the woman by quad in the area at 3 p.m., when she came walking up to the trailhead. The woman was uninjured and Pitterle said he was unsure how she ultimately got around the bears.

Around the same time that the woman was coming off the trail, Pitterle got another call from the Pine Strawberry Fire Department requesting assistance at the Tonto Natural Bridge.

A woman had fallen and injured her back at the bottom of the trail. Pitterle sent 15 TRSAR volunteers over to help carry the woman out of the canyon.

“They were only there for about 30 minutes and they just needed some extra hands to help carry her out,” he said.

This was the first weekend the bridge had been open since March, when it was closed after the state legislature cut $35 million from state park funds.

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