Summer rescues in full swing, but not all are real

JACKSON, WY — Teton County Search & Rescue has already had a busy summer, but a pair of recent false alarms plus one very real emergency serve as a good reminder to watch out for your own safety.

Search and Rescue responded to a call late Saturday night about three people overboard in the Snake River, near King’s Rapid. King’s Rapid is a notoriously dangerous wave, so SAR is used to seeing some carnage there, said Teton County Sheriff Matt Car. So when a concerned citizen reported seeing three people in the water with no boat, SAR acted swiftly.

Turns out, there was no need for a rescue. The mission was called off. This happened just two weekends after a Swiftwater Rescue course sent units searching for an overturned boat that was… supposed to be overturned. There was a miscommunication about where the course was taking place, Carr said. Dispatch expected action near the Wilson bridge, so reports of a flipped boat near the Canyon seemed like a real emergency. It was another false alarm.

These situations are tricky, Carr said, because of course, he wants anyone who sees an emergency to call it in. “I don’t want people to hesitate to call it in,” he said. “We just have to figure out how to process that information, and make sure we follow protocols so we’re not paging the team every time.”

Swiftwater rescues are especially tricky. SAR just updated their swiftwater rescue policy to make rescues more efficient, but especially in high and cold water, the chances of SAR saving a drowning person are incredibly low. “Unless somebody’s stranded, we’re not gonna get there in time to effect a rescue,” Carr said.

The lesson in all of this is that people, especially on the water, are largely responsible for their own safety. “If something goes bad on the water, it’s incumbent on people on the river to solve it themselves,” Carr said.

“It’s just really important that people are prepared and able to effect their own rescues.”

On the other hand, Search and Rescue also rescued a 60-year-old woman from Pacific Creek last week, and her rescue was absolutely necessary. She was horseback riding on a guided tour with Swift Creek Outfitters and fell off her horse on the wrong side of Pacific Creek. The woman told rescuers she thought she had dislocated her knee. Search and Rescue sent a helicopter to get her — which, to some, seemed dramatic. But it turned out she had a very broken femur. “She had an unbelievable pain tolerance,” Carr said. And in this case, it was “critical” for her to get into the operating room as soon as she could.

The bottom line? Absolutely call for help in an emergency. But remember that summer is busy for everyone, especially Search and Rescue. As Carr said, “it’s game on.” The more prepared you can be for your adventures, the better the outcome for everyone.

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