TOWNSHIP D — An Appalachian Trail hiker from Texas used a global satellite communication and tracking device to help rescuers find him Wednesday after he injured his leg and ankle less than two miles from Route 17 at Height of Land.

Charles Smith, 69, of Plano, Texas, was descending Bemis Mountain on the trail near the intersection of the Bemis Track when he fell.

Bemis Track is a gravel road built over the bed of the old Rumford Falls and Rangeley Lakes Railroad that was abandoned in the 1930s.

About 25 rescuers, including trail hikers, carried Smith off Bemis Mountain to a waiting Med-Care ambulance on the Bemis Track, Med-Care Chief Dean Milligan said Thursday afternoon.

Med-Care initially took Smith to Rumford Hospital. He was later taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston for treatment, Cpl. John McDonald, Maine Warden Service spokesman, said Thursday in a news release.

Milligan said Smith suffered hairline fractures in his lower leg and ankle. “It was clearly broken,” he said.

He said Smith left Andover on Wednesday morning, planning to hike the AT to Height of Land on Route 17.

“He had made it roughly 13 or 14 miles on the trail,” Milligan said. “He wasn’t familiar with the Bemis Track, so he didn’t know he was almost there, so it worked out good for us. Everything played in our favor.”

It happened at noon, the weather was sunny and 70 degrees and Smith was less than half a mile in on the AT from the Bemis Track, Milligan said.

Milligan said what made the rescue unique was that Smith was carrying a SPOT device when he fell. “So he got hurt and he pushed the button for a cellular connection that uses satellite communication, so it notified the company that monitors these devices and he told them that he was in trouble and he needed help.”

The company contacted the Maine Warden Service in Augusta, who put it in touch with Warden Brock Clukey. “Then, apparently, they were able to patch Brock through to Smith, so he was able to talk to the guy on the trail.”

Smith told Clukey that as the crow flies, his GPS told him he was only 1.7 miles from Route 17. Clukey knew the area and asked Smith if he had crossed a major dirt road (Bemis Track). Smith said he hadn’t, giving Clukey a better idea where the injured man was waiting.

Clukey called for help from River Valley-area rescuers who had worked with him on past rescues. Two wardens with the service’s cable television show, “North Woods Law,” which filmed the rescue, responded, along with a Maine forest ranger, Milligan and a crew of three from Med-Care, two members of Mahoosuc Mountain Rescue of Bethel, and Mexico, Roxbury and Rumford firefighters.

They also had help from the trail. “What we didn’t know there were some hikers who had turned around and gone back to help with the carryout,” Milligan said.

It took the first team 25 minutes to hike to Smith, who initially thought he could hop down the trail while being helped by the first team, but the injury was worse than he thought, Milligan said.

“It would have been great if he could have, but there was no way he was going to do that,” Milligan said. “I didn’t see (the injury) but the guys who did said it was pretty obviously broken.”

Smith’s leg and ankle were placed in an air splint, he was given fluids and medicine intravenously, and strapped into a Stokes basket for carryout.

The terrain “was very steep,” Milligan said. “It wasn’t too, too bad, but we did use a Stokes basket and ropes. There were some places where we were able to walk on the trail carrying the Stokes and there were other places where we had to stop and just hand the Stokes down and rotate people down around people.”

They used ropes in places for the safety of rescuers and Smith. “It was just to make sure someone didn’t slip and the patient end up getting dropped. We didn’t have any high-angle rope work. “

[email protected].

filed under: