LEAVENWORTH — A Montana man was rescued Monday from The Enchantments after he was pinned beneath a refrigerator-sized boulder near Lake Viviane.
Rescuers used extrication equipment normally used in vehicle collisions to lift the boulder off 28-year-old hiker Ben Delahunty and then transported him to a hospital about eight hours after a hiking partner called for help.
“According to him, he was on the boulder, it felt really stable — he’s not a heavy person — and it just all of sudden started to slide and he ended up underneath it,” said Sgt. Jason Reinfeld with Chelan County Emergency Management.
The boulder trapped Delahunty’s legs and a wrist. His hiking partner called 911 at 9:30 a.m.
Thirteen people were flown to the scene, roughly nine miles southwest of Leavenworth, and seven more helped coordinate and support the rescue.
“This one, it was really tricky because they were nearly on a cliff side and the boulder was also being held in place by a tree,” Reinfeld said. He added, rescuers were also concerned the tree could break loose and further injure Delahunty.
Those working directly with Delahunty were tied into ropes because “They had an exposure on the downhill side of a couple hundred feet,” Reinfeld said.
Among the rescue crew were members of the Wenatchee Valley Fire Department, who were tapped to use air bladders to lift the boulder.
“They’re used typically for vehicle accidents where they have to move a vehicle off someone if they’re pinned,” Reinfeld said of the bladders. The bladders can be filled by oxygen tanks used by firefighters.
Delahunty was freed from the boulder about 2:50 p.m., but high winds slowed removing him by helicopter. He was flown from the area at 4:45 p.m. by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. The man was in satisfactory condition Tuesday afternoon at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee, a hospital spokesperson said.
Rescuers on scene hiked out and reached the trailhead about 11 p.m. Equipment used in the complex rescue was left nearby overnight and retrieved Tuesday by helicopter.
“I’ve been involved in search and rescue for 15 years and I haven’t seen a rescue as complicated as this one to accomplish,” Reinfeld said. He added, “Something heavy trapping somebody is dangerous if you can drive up to it with equipment, but having to do it so remotely just adds another level of complication and hazard.”
Wenatchee Valley Fire Department Chief Brian Brett said this was the first time his department had been tasked to use extrication equipment for a mountain rescue.
“This was definitely something a movie’s made out of,” Brett said.
Participating in the rescue were members of Cascade Ambulance, Chelan County Mountain Rescue, Wenatchee Valley Fire Department, Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team, and Chelan County Emergency Management. Chelan County Fire District 3 provided additional equipment.
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