An injured hiker was airlifted from a trail west of Nordegg on Monday afternoon after breaking his leg on the Landslide Lake trail.
Rescuers had to hike in two km with a stretcher to retrieve the injured man, who was then transported to Rocky Mountain House via a military helicopter that just happened to be in the area.
The drama started on Monday afternoon when a distressed hiker came into the Cline River Heliport on Hwy 11 west of Nordegg, said Andrew Crane, a pilot with Rockies Heli Tour at the heliport.
“The hiker said he had a medical emergency and his friend had broken his leg on the hike down from Landslide Lake,” said Crane.
By luck, there were military helicopters in the area. The Edmonton-based 408 tactical helicopter squadron was conducting an exercise in the area, which included a CH-146 Griffon helicopter.
“I contacted them on the radio (at about 3:45 p.m.) and asked if they were willing to help out and go get him,” said Crane. “They said ‘Yes’ and we gave them the latitude and longitude of where the injured guy was and they went out there.”
The injured hiker had to be carried out of the woods by stretcher about two km before he was loaded into the Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter and taken to Rocky hospital.
The helicopter landed at the trailhead just off of Hwy 11. According to a release from the air force public affairs, the helicopter landed in challenging terrain and the first officer and flight engineer helped carry the stretcher through the rugged terrain to the waiting helicopter.
The hiker was then airlifted to Rocky Mountain House Health Centre, where hospital staff were awaiting having been alerted to the helicopter’s arrival. When the RCAF left, the hiker was conscious and under hospital care.
“The aircraft commander acted decisively and took appropriate action to preserve life in this situation. We’re certainly glad we were able to assist,” said Lt.-Col. Red MacDonnell, 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron commanding officer.
“While we are not primarily a search and rescue squadron, this incident shows the flexibility of air power and that all RCAF aircraft can add to the search and rescue role to assist Canadians in need.”
Crane said this was the worst injury he has seen in the region this year. In the past, he has gone out to help hikers, including one who sprained an ankle and couldn’t hike back down and another who broke a tailbone.
“If they fall down and get injured on a really long back country hike, then they can’t really hike back out,” said Crane. “We’ll go and help them out and at least get them to the road and they can decide what they want to do from there.”
The helicopter squadron was conducting a landing zone reconnaissance flight in support of the third battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Basic Mountain Operations course.