VERNON TOWNSHIP, NJ (Sussex County) – A 37-year-old hiker was hoisted by a Coast Guard helicopter crew after he injured his head in a 10 foot fall while hiking alone on the “Stairway to Heaven” section of the Appalachian Trail Saturday morning, according to police.
The call was received at 9:45 a.m. and Vernon 911 dispatcher James Ditacconi used advanced equipment in the dispatch center to locate the exact location of the hiker using his cell signal. It was determined that the victim was on a ledge located near a section of the trail referred to as “Pinwheel Vista”. Ditacconi provided the victim with some basic first aid instructions while first responders tried to reach the area. The victim was also assisted by other hikers on the trail, two of whom were nurse practitioners.
Vernon police officer Adam Krause as well as Glenwood Pochuck Ambulance Squad members Tracy Berge and Scott Berge were able to access the victim from the bottom of the mountain and continue to provide first aid. Members of the fire departments as well as members of the NJ State Park Police were also able to eventually reach the victim coming from the top of the mountain.
Due to the nature of the injuries and the location of the victim the US Coast Guard and the NJ State Police rescue helicopters were requested to respond. A total of three rescue helicopters and personnel responded to assist with this high-risk rescue.
The US Coast Guard helicopter team lowered a member and basket down to the victim using a cable and winch system to extricate the victim into the helicopter. After the victim was lifted into the Coast Guard helicopter he was then transported to the ground and transferred into a NJ State Police helicopter to be transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Patterson, NJ.
This rescue was a well-coordinated effort of the Vernon Police Department, Vernon 911 Center, West Milford Search and Rescue Team, NJ State Police TEAMS Unit, NJ State Park Police, Vernon Ambulance Squad, Glenwood Pochuck Ambulance Squad and the Vernon, McAfee and Highland Lakes Fire Departments.
Vernon Township Fire Department Chief Ron Krystofik was very instrumental in coordinating all of the agency’s in a joint command operation with a great outcome.
“While accidents can happen to even the most experienced hikers it should be noted that this section of the Appalachian Trail is significantly more difficult than the “Boardwalk” section of the trail. Please always use extreme caution and make sure you are prepared for the terrain you will encounter when hiking in this area, police said.