We're all familiar with the admonition "Don't Drink and Drive," but similar advice applies if the "horsepower" involved is of the four-legged variety. Rescuers at the Buffalo National River had to contend with a heavily intoxicated man who was seriously injured after he—and his horse—fell over a cliff.
The Midwest Regional Ozark Communications Center received a call about the situation late on the night of June 21, and rangers from the park's Middle Buffalo District responded, along with deputies from Searcy County Sheriff’s Office and an advanced life support unit from North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in Harrison, Arkansas.
According to a park spokesperson, emergency responders found a heavily-intoxicated and seriously-injured 69-year-old man who, along with the horse he’d been riding, had fallen over a 25-foot cliff in the Woolum “High Bank” area. This is a stretch of narrow road that parallels the Buffalo River near a vertical embankment directly above the river.
Rescuers were lowered to the patient, and found him partially submerged in the river, suffering from a large, open head wound and a pneumothorax. They stabilized the victim, packaged him for a vertical haul, and conducted a technical raising operation. From the road, the patient was transported via ground ambulance to a nearby helipad. He was airlifted by an Air Evac helicopter to a treatment facility in Springfield, Missouri, where he was listed in critical condition.
The man’s horse was apparently uninjured and stood knee-deep in the river watching as the rescue unfolded, but there were other complications in an already bizarre situation.
Rangers reported that throughout the rescue, a female companion of the patient, also on horseback and also heavily intoxicated, interfered with the operation, endangering both the patient and rescuers by riding her horse back and forth over the anchor ropes used to raise the litter. Because all rangers and deputies on scene were engaged in the rescue itself, they were unable to place the woman into custody at the time. Shortly before the raising operation was complete, she left the scene on horseback.
Two days later, Rangers Tracy Whitaker and Cody Smith tracked the woman down in a nearby town and cited her for disorderly conduct.