Search, Rescue Team Called Out Three Times This Weekend

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After a surprisingly slow Fourth of July holiday, rescuers were back on the trails this weekend helping dehydrated, hypothermic and injured hikers.

Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Commander Bill Pitterle said volunteers made up for lost time Saturday and Sunday with three missions.

The first rescue happened Saturday morning when a teenage girl hiking with family and friends in the frigid waters of Box Canyon became hypothermic.

Luckily, TRSAR volunteers were already in the area training in one of the most accident-prone areas of Rim Country.

Pitterle explained TRSAR arrived at the top of the canyon, about half a mile west of the R Bar C Boy Scout Camp, around the same time as the family that would soon need rescuing.

While TRSAR volunteers set up a new rigging system for hauling victims out of the canyon, the family hiked into the canyon, upstream and out of sight.

After setting up a complex system of ropes and pulleys for several hours, volunteers heard cries for help coming from the canyon some 600 feet below.

“Since we pull people out of there so often, we train there often,” Pitterle said. “We had just set up a new rigging system, sent ropes down the canyon and were getting ready to try it when we heard someone calling for help.”

Several volunteers in the canyon hiked to the group and found a teenage girl shivering uncontrollably.

The girl’s father was concerned for the girl’s safety because she was overly sensitive to the cold water.

Pitterle sent blankets and more volunteers to the girl, who eventually warmed up enough to walk out of the canyon with assistance.

If needed, Pitterle said they would have hauled the teen up the nearly vertical cliff in a litter using the new rigging system.

Shortly after wrapping up at Box Canyon, Pitterle got a call that the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department needed help hauling a woman out from the bottom of the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. Roughly 20 TRSAR volunteers along with P-S firefighters wheeled a woman with a broken ankle up a steep, short trail where she received medical aid.

On Sunday, a 68-year-old man found himself stuck halfway down Fossil Creek Trail after becoming extremely dehydrated.

The man, who was hiking with friends, was two miles down the exposed trail with 100-degree temperatures pounding at his back when he was overcome with dehydration and could no longer keep fluids down. One of the man’s friends hiked to the trailhead, where he could get cell phone reception, and called for help.

The man’s friend reported the man was vomiting and could not hike out, Pitterle said.

Pitterle and a group of volunteers drove to the trailhead west of Strawberry and were just about to hike down the trail when a monsoonal thunderstorm erupted.

“To our great fortune, a rain storm came and poured on us and him and this cooled him down,” Pitterle said. “It was beautiful.”

The cool rain lowered the man’s body temperature and he was eventually able to hold water down. With TRSAR and the P-S Fire Department’s assistance, the man walked back to the trailhead.

For the year, TRSAR, an all volunteer group, has completed 28 search and rescues, a small drop from last year.

“We had a fairly mild June temperature wise, which cut down on the heat stress missions we normally see,” he said.

“We are running a little bit behind, but still running at a blistering pace.”

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