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Injured mountain biker airlifted from Annadel State Park after difficult rescue

Published: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 8:55 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 8:45 p.m.

Bennett Valley firefighters undertook a complicated rescue over the weekend to aid an injured mountain biker who crashed deep in Annadel State Park.

Four firefighters hiked about 2½ rugged miles to get to the rider. Three of them shared a 100-pound plus load of medical supplies and a patient litter, Bennett Valley fire Lt. Travis Browne said.

The man, who feared he'd broken his neck, had to be carried about a quarter mile along a narrow, difficult trail to an awaiting CHP helicopter, Browne said.

The helicopter flew him to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. He was identified only as a 40-year-old from Sonoma County.

"For me it was the most technical rescue we've had for quite some time," said Browne, 32.

The man had gone to the popular park Sunday afternoon with his two young sons and six other adults. They were winding down their ride when the accident occurred.

"He hit a root, went over his handlebars and struck his forehead, causing serious injuries," said Browne. The man was wearing a bike helmet.

The 911 call for help was made at 6:46 p.m. by one of the riders, saying the man had a possible neck injury.

Bennett Valley firefighters frequently go to the huge east Santa Rosa park for lost or injured hikers and bikers. Sunday's four-man crew of Browne and three part-time firefighters responded with a pickup loaded with equipment for such park rescues.

They got into the park at 6:52 p.m. via Woodview Drive and drove to the Canyon and Marsh trailhead where they began hiking.

They were met by some of the victim's friends and his sons. The boys and multiple bikes were taken out by Santa Rosa firefighters.

One friend guided firefighters to the injured man. Without the guide, firefighters would have struggled to find the man as the group had been riding on an unofficial trail, said Browne.

They got to him at about 7:30 p.m. He was on the ground -- cold but conscious.

He told firefighters he might have broken his neck and while he still could move, numbness was spreading.

"He was in a severe amount of pain," said Browne. "Time was of the essence to get him out of there."

They stabilized him, made him as comfortable as possible and strapped him to the litter.

Browne estimated the man weighed about 200 pounds. The firefighters had help from five others, two from the helicopter crew and three men who'd been on the bike ride.

It was dark. Flashlights lit the way.

They took turns, carrying him along a single-track trail made more challenging because of roots, loose rocks, sharp turns and steep changes in elevation.

In a clearing, they got him into the helicopter. The firefighters hiked back to the crash site, reclaimed their gear and began the two-plus miles to their pickup.

But after going to the hospital the helicopter returned, picked them up and shortened the effort. The firefighters got back to their Bennett Valley Road station at about 10:30 p.m.

"We're hoping everything turns out all right for the patient," he said.You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

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