GTNP Trail Crew Members Save Visitor’s Life; Multiple emergency rescues noted

A helicopter using a short haul lift brought a climber out of the Tetons Tuesday after he fell into a narrow ice crevasse in Grand Teton National Park. NPS Photo

MOOSE, WY- In recent weeks Grand Teton National Park employees have responded to several emergency medical and rescue situations, including park trail crew members saving the life of a visitor who fell into Cascade Creek and was pinned by the force of rushing water.

Grand Teton National Park Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said, “Quick responses, medical and emergency training and situational awareness by our employees have greatly contributed to the successful responses and outcomes in a variety of recent incidents.” He added, “I am very proud of our employees and their professionalism and compassion during some very intense situations.”

Earlier today, Friday, July 10, park rangers rescued a 62-year-old male, Mike Merigliano from Driggs, Idaho, after he unexpectedly spent the night in the backcountry. Late Thursday at approximately 11:30 p.m. Merigliano’s wife notified Teton Interagency Dispatch that he was overdue from a photography hike in the park, likely in the Lake of the Crags area in Hanging Canyon. Rangers located Merigliano’s vehicle at the String Lake trailhead and began preparations to survey the area at first light.

At about 3 a.m. four rangers began hiking and climbing to arrive at Lake of the Crags by day light.

They made voice contact with Merigliano at about 6:30 a.m. and down-climbed to his location, approximately 300 feet down a gulley that descends into Cascade Canyon on the south side of Rock of Ages.   Rangers assisted Merigliano back up the gulley, and then lowered him more than 800 feet to the north of the Lake of the Crags area.   The interagency helicopter landed at the west end of the lake and he was flown to Lupine Meadows and then transported by park ambulance to St. John’s Health in Jackson. 

Park trail crew members were working in the Inspiration Point area at approximately 12 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7, when they were approached by a visitor yelling for help. The visitor explained that a man was pinned in fast moving water about a half mile above Inspiration Point and needed help.

James Hemus, age 23 from Bethesda, Maryland, was hiking Cascade Canyon with two other individuals when he slipped on some logs while playing in Cascade Creek. His leg was pinned between some rocks amid very cold and fast-moving water. His hiking companions and other hikers in the area tried to extract him from the situation with no success.

Trail crew members arrived and assessed the situation, including Hemus’ injuries and deteriorating medical condition. Hemus was succumbing to the water’s frigid temperature and pressure and was challenged to stay above the rushing water. Trail crew members and other bystanders used rope from the crew’s supplies to leverage a system to maintain Hemus’ head and shoulders out of the water, as well as physically holding him above the water. Trail crew members also created a rope system to remove Hemus from the rocks. After several attempts from a variety of angles, Hemus’ leg was freed. Park rangers arrived on scene to provide additional first aid and extract Hemus from the scene via helicopter short haul to Lupine Meadows. A park ambulance transported him to St. John’s Health in Jackson.

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Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received an emergency call on Saturday, July 4, at approximately 9:20 p.m. regarding an injured climber. Late Saturday afternoon two climbers were descending after a successful summit of South Teton, when a series of thunderstorms moved in. Andre Perez, 32 years of age from Berkeley, California, slid on snow and fell more than 200 feet in the Cave Couloir located in the South Fork of Garnet Canyon. Perez sustained substantial injuries. His climbing partner hiked to a backcountry camping zone and another camper made the emergency call requesting help.

At approximately 10:30 p.m. two park rangers departed the Lupine Meadows area and used ice axes and crampons to hike and climb the steep and snow-covered terrain to reach the injured climber, arriving at approximately 1 a.m. The rangers accessed Perez’s injuries and stabilized him to spend the night in the backcountry. At approximately 7 a.m. on Sunday, July 5, the Teton Interagency helicopter inserted two additional park rangers and a rescue litter to the accident area. Perez and an accompanying ranger were then helicopter short hauled to Lupine Meadows and the injured climber was transported by park ambulance to St. John’s Health in Jackson.

Early afternoon on June 20, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received an emergency call about an unresponsive individual that was a passenger in a vehicle traveling U.S. Highway 89 about 10 miles north of Moose Junction. The 67-year-old male from Newdale, Idaho, was traveling with family when he suffered a medical emergency and stopped breathing.  

Two park volunteers, one a nurse practitioner, were in the area and responded almost immediately and assisted a bystander that initiated CPR. Two park ambulances with medical personnel, in addition to park rangers, arrived on scene and took over life-saving measures. A heartbeat was established several times on scene and as the individual was transported to St. John’s Health in Jackson. Due the patient’s fragile condition a helicopter transport was not an option.

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