Warming Temperatures Bring Fossil Creek Rescues

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As weather and creek temperatures warm throughout the Rim Country, so do the number of rescues.

On Saturday, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue and the Gila County Sheriff’s Office worked together to help two hikers, one with a twisted knee and the other with several broken ribs, off Fossil Creek Trail.

Rescues in the Fossil Creek area are anything but new.

Out of TRSAR’s 52 missions last year, 10 were at Fossil Creek, the second highest response area behind Hellsgate Trail, where there were 11 missions, according to TRSAR Commander Bill Pitterle.

Rescues normally involved hikers suffering from broken bones or dehydration.

The beauty of the area, with its numerous crystal clear pools for swimming and challenging trails, are a draw for outdoor enthusiasts and families, but a headache for rescuers.

In the latest mission, William Marchand, 30, of Tonopah, Rudy Schenkenderg, 31, of Scottsdale, and Schenkenderg’s 12-year-old son, decided to go backpacking to Fossil Creek. The group left the Fossil Creek trailhead Thursday evening and hiked 3.5 miles to the creek.

At some point during the hike, Marchand stepped on some brush, which gave way, plummeting him into a five-foot hole. Marchand broke several ribs and scratched his hand during the fall, said Sheriff’s Sgt. Terry Hudgens.

On Saturday, Marchand realized he could not walk 3.5 miles out to the car, which includes a 1,600-foot gain in elevation, and the group called for help.

While Marchand was nursing his broken ribs, at some point, Schenkenderg twisted his knee and he could no longer walk.

When Hudgens received the men’s call for help, he sent for the DPS helicopter while the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department hiked down to the men and began administering aid.

A helicopter arrived near the banks of Fossil Creek and airlifted Marchand back to their car at the trailhead.

Meanwhile, Schenkenderg attempted to walk out of the canyon with the help of firefighters, however, a third of the way up, Schenkenderg realized he could not walk any further.

TRSAR volunteers hiked several miles down the trail, put Schenkenderg on a gurney and carried him out to their car, where Marchand was still waiting. Schenkenderg and his son, who was uninjured, along with Marchand climbed into their car and drove to the hospital.

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