At the morning meeting today, we all got a briefing from Brian Glick and John Good regarding the rumored crash of Brian Milner (GJ). Apparently Brian was attempting a save on the side of a ridge, and made the classic mistake of trying to turn into the hill with not enough room to complete the maneuver. When the noise stopped, Brian had lost his glasses and couldn't figure out how to activate the 911 feature on his SPOT device, but he *did* manage to activate the HELP feature, which sent a text message containing the correct coordinates to his wife. As it turned out, those coordinates allowed John Good and Brian Glick to fly a towplane directly to the accident site and find the glider. They were also able to pass the coordinates to a rescue helicopter, saving valuable time in getting the rescue operation underway.
Apparently, a power line maintenance helicopter and crew went way above and beyond the call of duty in assisting with the rescue. The crash site was inaccessible by road (and barely by foot!), so they volunteered to lower a Stokes basket helicopter-borne rescue litter to the site and lift Brian out and set him down at next to a LifeFlight helicopter about half a mile away, thereby saving the many hours required for heavy equipment to come up and cut a path for a ground litter retrieve.
At last report, Brian and his wife are together at the hospital, and he is doing well. Earlier reports of broken bones and ribs appear to be inaccurate - he is now reported to be suffering only from a 'burst vertebra', a reportedly common injury in sudden-stop crashes of this type. Treatment may be as simple as a back brace for a while, or as complex as an operation. In any case, from what I have heard so far, a full recovery is expected.
As a partner with Mark Hawkins in the Hawke Tracking LLC company that sells SPOT tracking services for contests, and as a long-time promoter for the use of SPOT devices in soaring in general, I am gratified that SPOT had a significant role to play in this particular rescue. This may be the first verified SPOT save since we started promoting SPOT use two years ago.
As a last note for this post. Brian apparently lost his glasses on impact, and so could not figure out how to activate the 911 feature on his SPOT device. Although activating the HELP function did in fact generate a rapid response from contest management here, he would probably have been better off with the 911 function, as this causes the GEOS corporation responsible for emergency response to immediately contact the responsible 911 responders and start the rescue response, *after* contacting Brian's emergency contact number (in this case undoubtedly his wife). So, the same information would have been passed along, but it would have gotten the 911 guys to the scene just a little bit earlier, and would have lessened the possibility of confusion and miscommunication. So, the lesson here is, KNOW HOW TO ACTIVATE 911 ON YOUR SPOT BY FEEL - WITHOUT GLASSES!!
Dr. Frank (TA) Paynter has a PhD in Electrical Engineering. He retired from a successful 25-year civil-service career in 1993 and spent the next 15 years as a antenna researcher at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, retiring again in 2008 to become a full-time soaring bum.He is the author of the book “Cross Country Soaring with Condor”, co-authors (along with Scott Manley) the popular Condor Corner column for ‘Soaring’ magazine, and is a regular contributor to the Condor section at SoaringCafe.com.Along with Mark Hawkins, he is part owner of Hawke Tracking, the company that provides SPOT tracking services for contests and clubs. Before soaring came along, Frank was a national champion skydiver and still holds the record for the most number of consecutive dead-centers in skydiving competition. Frank started soaring in the mid-1990’s at Caesar’s Creek Soaring Club near Waynesville, Ohio and instantly fell in love with Cross-Country racing. Now he goes to as many contests as his wife of over 30 years will allow, and spends his winter months racing and instructing in Condor.