This time the signal from SPOT really was sent seeking aid with a medical emergency, alerting Grand Canyon National Park rangers to a man with a fractured leg deep in the canyon.
The last time we heard about SPOT -- a device that can transmit an emergency signal to authorities -- and the Grand Canyon, it involved some backcountry travelers who really didn't need help. This time, though, the man had multiple fractures and wasn't going to walk out of his location in Elves Chasm, which is about 30 miles downriver from Phantom Ranch, according to the Park Service. The chasm consists of a series of waterfalls and pools in a high-walled canyon, the agency said.
Early Friday afternoon authorities were alerted that help was needed when a 911 activation from SPOT was received. A second activation at the same location was reported approximately 30 minutes later, according to park officials.
"At the time of these activations, the park’s helicopter was unable to respond due to high winds and poor visibility, so a plane already in the air on another mission was dispatched to fly reconnaissance over the area. About an hour later, dispatch received a satellite phone report from a private river trip leader advising that a 39-year-old man had fractured his lower leg in multiple places when he took a fall in Elves Chasm," a park release said. "Because their satellite phone was not getting a signal at the time, a member of the group activated the 911 function on their SPOT device. Now in contact with the group, rangers were able to work with them over the phone to consider their self-rescue options. Unfortunately, self-rescue was not possible, and weather conditions did not improve enough for the helicopter to fly that evening.
"With over-the-phone guidance from park rangers, trip members made the injured man comfortable for the evening. Early the next morning, he was lifted from Elves Chasm by short-haul (suspended on a 150-foot line below the helicopter) and transported to a flat area where he could be loaded into the helicopter and flown to the South Rim helibase. From there, he was transported by ground ambulance to Flagstaff Medical Center. Although there has recently been a great deal of publicity about 911 activations of SPOT devices for non-emergencies, this situation exemplifies the value of these devices when used appropriately in emergency situations."