August 23, 2019

ATV accident training readies rescue crews

GREENVILLE -The scene looked gruesome.

An all-terrain vehicle had struck a tree in the Moosehead Lake region and the two riders had been tossed over the handlebars and down a grassy incline where they lay injured. Because of the extent of their injuries, it was evident the pair would need to be airlifted to the nearest medical center.

It could have been an actual occurrence anywhere in the state, but this was a mock exercise. All the key players – local police, wardens, fire and rescue personnel and LifeFlight of Maine – were already on the scene.

About 30 people from throughout the state spent Saturday under the unrelenting sun learning what the protocol is for accidents on Maine’s all-terrain vehicle trails.

In addition to participating in the mock exercise, those attending received instruction on how to identify landing spots for rescue helicopters. Participants came from as far away as Madawaska.

“I just find this fascinating,” Hope Otis of Skowhegan, a member of the Big Indian ATV club, said Saturday during a break.

Like other participants, Otis will return to her club and relay the information she gleaned from the training session.

Jim Lane, trails vice president of the Alliance of Trail Vehicles of Maine, a statewide organization representing all affiliated ATV clubs, was pleased with the participation considering there were four other all-terrain vehicle events, such as a toy run, being held elsewhere Saturday.

Lane also was pleased with the back-up that John Crowley of the Maine Forest Service provided until LifeFlight arrived.

Crowley, who is stationed in Augusta and who landed one of the state’s aging Huey helicopters in the local athletic field, told the participants before the exercise that the Maine Forest Service is the last resort for medical airlifts that occur in remote areas because the pilots typically fly by themselves.

If no other airlift is available, his department will respond to medical emergencies if there is the danger of loss of life, limb or eyesight.

The participants were warned by Crowley to keep their distance from the rotor blades during landings and take-offs, to be careful of the downwash that the moving blades create and never to approach a helicopter from behind.

Crowley told the all-terrain club members to be his eyes and ears when an airlift is needed and be as descriptive as possible about the location.

Sandra Benton, a nurse and program coordinator of LifeFlight of Bangor, said the crew members bring the care of Eastern Maine Medical Center to the patient.

“We do not hesitate to go to remote locations,” Benton said Saturday. The landing zone needs to be 100-feet by 100-feet and clear of trees, wires and debris, she said. If it is a night rescue, some sort of light directed at the accident scene is helpful until the craft’s search lights are activated.

Participants also learned what they should do to preserve an accident scene for the warden service, whose job is to investigate the cause of the accident.

The first person on the scene should call for help and be as accurate as possible with directions, Sgt. Adam Gormely said Saturday. They should protect the victim and the scene.

“It’s not my job to call LifeFlight. Greenville Fire and Rescue do a great job,” Gormely said. “They’ll come at the drop of a hat.”

It will be these individuals and the responding medics who will alert LifeFlight, if necessary.

Medic John Simko, who also is Greenville’s town manager, told participants Saturday that everybody plays a role in rescues.

Common sense should prevail at the scene as demonstrated during the mock exercise, training that Greenville Fire Chief John Cobb said was needed since his department responds to rescues over 520 square miles in the Moosehead Lake region.

“It’s really important training,” Cobb said.

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