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The Observer Paper 10/29/14

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By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE — A Spokane man was in fair condition at Grande Ronde Hospital after being plucked from the Eagle Cap Wilderness Monday night by an Oregon Air National Guard Blackhawk helicopter.

The mission was described as "very intense" and high-risk because of wind gusts up to 50 knots.

About 8:45 p.m. Monday a 911 call was received from a Wallowa Lake residence that David Wiyrick, 55, had been hemorrhaging from the nose since about 2 p.m. and there was concern about blood loss, said Matthew Marmor, Wallowa County Emergency Program Manager.

Initial details were sketchy. Wiyrick, reportedly a Spokane County sheriff's investigator, was participating in a family outing.

He was making his way out when he arrived at a camp at Horseshoe Lake about 2 p.m. Monday, where Jim and Sue Burden, a dentist and surgical nurse from Cheney, Wash., assisted him with ice.

It is thought that about 5:30 p.m. someone was sent on horseback out the more than nine miles of the West Fork Wallowa River Trail, to make the 911 call.

By about 9:45 a military helicopter was requested. The military located a craft in Prineville from the 1042nd Oregon Army National Guard with a crew of four equipped with night-vision goggles and a medic that were dispatched for a Military Assistance, Safety and Traffic mission.

This was "a high-risk mission to the crew, very intense," Marmor said.

One local resource expert volunteer from the Wallowa County Sheriff's Search and Rescue who knew the area, stood by at the Enterprise Airport to board the chopper.

Meanwhile, four search and rescue volunteers, including an EMT, started up the trail with horses and information, such as a possible landing zone and packed lunches provided by the McDowell family that owns the Eagle Cap Wilderness Pack Station. Their help was an integral part of the mission, Marmor said. "It really made a big difference."

The volunteers arrived as the helicopter was landing at about 12:43 a.m.

After meeting with Marmor and making hospital arrangements, the ship took off about an hour later. After flying through swirling winds, it landed in the wilderness at about 2:15 a.m., loaded Wiyrick, took off and those on board provided treatment.

About one-half hour later the helicopter landed at the La Grande airport, where Wiyrick was transported by ground ambulance to the hospital.

"Highly successful," is how Marmor described the mission. Teamwork helped make it so, he said.

"We had tremendous help from partners like the U.S. Forest Service," he said. They provided assistance in arranging for permission for mechanized equipment to be allowed into the wilderness, and their search and rescue coordinator provided information about camps, trail conditions and other details. Marmor also coordinated with the Oregon Emergency Management Office and the hospital.

The ironies of this situation included that the previous day, the Search and Rescue responded to a false alarm. At 9:55 a.m. Sunday, four horseback riders were reported overdue from the Cougar Ridge-Stanley Guard Station area. About 3:30 p.m. they called in saying they had driven directly home rather than stopping by a relative's home as was planned.

Then Monday evening's 911 call was received during the SAR's regularly scheduled training meeting.

All 13 volunteers present sprung into action, not for an exercise, but for the "real thing."

The SAR has 27 members, but more are welcome, Marmor said. For information, call 426-3131.


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