The direction of life can change in a second. One minute you’re driving down the road, the next minute you’re sitting in the snow bleeding while gasoline drips from your overturned vehicle.
To keep up old skills and learn new ones, Flathead Search and Rescue does regular training. It’s a good thing for everyone. Experienced members refresh their skills and new guys, like me, get to learn. (And yes, my Maritime knots do come in handy!) Yesterday’s training was a night incident involving a crashed ATV and two injured victims. Training takes on a whole new intensity in the dark, in eight inches of snow with the temperature decidedly below freezing. Everything is just more difficult.
Ropes were deployed, ‘victims’ were assessed, packaged and transported to a helicopter evacuation area. There were about a dozen of us. It was impressive to see just how serious they all took this. I hadn’t been involved in an incident like this… yet … but I felt confident in the crew.
Even successful training requires a debrief. This one was held around a wood stove. Nice.
As we were winding up our debrief, a local man, I’ll call him Butch, was driving, probably too fast, down the road we were about to ride onto with our SAR trucks. Butch is an older-middle aged man who just might have had too much to drink. His pickup went off the road, plowed through 70-80 feet of snow, went airborne as it hit a driveway berm and landed upside down. Pieces of the vehicle were all over. Somewhere in this process Butch was thrown from the vehicle and landed in the snow, apparently using his head to cushion the landing.
I don’t know this guy. I don’t know if he was having a great day or he was having a shitty day. I do know that the split second his truck left the road his prospects of having any other day, good or bad, declined significantly.
In only his shirtsleeves, Butch sat in the snow and bled. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been there. It was dark and cold. The road was quiet, deserted and eerily empty on this dark night. Did I mention it was well below freezing?
A lone pickup came by and stopped. The Samaritan put on his flashers. Not knowing what to do for Butch the Samaritan gave him a thin blanket and tried to call 911. Short minutes later we happened to reach the scene, which was on our way back to the SAR garage. What if this was you?
It’s getting late on a very dark road in Montana. You’re sitting in a snowbank bleeding. You’re groggy and most likely in shock at your sudden change of fortunes. You don’t really notice the headlights stopping on the road. You try to ignore the flashing lights, not sure if they’re real or the result of the knock on your head. Every part of your body hurts. Out of the glow of lights come twelve medically trained ‘rescuers’. Some bend over to assess you, others search the area for other potential victims. A full medical kit comes out of nowhere and suddenly you’re feeling a little warmer as the survival blanket starts to work. Sometime later you’re put into a warm ambulance and zipped away.
Was this Butch’s best (luckiest) day or his worst day?