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December 04, 2016
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‘Fall victim’ call more than expected

After reading Ann Steimle’s grueling account of a fisherman’s rescue, Lumberland Supervisor Nadia Rajsz, right, honored Steimle and also replaced the pair of socks that the active emergency medical services worker and fire department president reported ruined during the afternoon-long effort.
TRR photo by David Hulse

On the anniversary of a tragic event, an appropriate highlight at the September 11 town board meeting in Lumberland was an unusual emergency medical services (EMS) incident report by fire department president and EMS captain Ann Steimle.

Lumberland Supervisor Nadia Rajsz read Steimle’s account, which appears in the town’s newsletter and illustrates the work that fire and EMS volunteers routinely do.

Steimle wrote of an August 22 emergency call for a “fall victim at 431 County Route 31,” one of over 60 emergency calls dealt with since the beginning of July. It began on a day “I am not going to forget any time soon,” she wrote.

After two earlier calls that day, volunteers were called out for an odor of propane at 1:30 p.m. As the equipment was leaving the fire house, the call for a fall victim came in, so Steimle and firefighter Terry Knibbs decided Steimle would take the medical call and he would take the engine to the propane call.

She thought she was going to a residence. She wasn’t. Traveling down the road she found there was no number 431 address. James “Jimmy” Bisland flagged them down and told the ambulance crew that the fall victim is actually a fisherman who was “about a mile in the woods on the Mongaup River.”

Steimle and James “Jay” Steimle then accompanied Bisland, who offered to take them to the victim. She wrote, “We skitter down a steep embankment, zigzag over ridges and over two ravines. It really was doggone near a mile until we found the nephew and hapless fisherman. He had fallen from the very, very narrow foot path, more like deer path, and was seriously injured, possibly fractured his hip.

“Problem was, he fell eight feet straight down on the river’s edge, feet in the water sitting on a rock and hands in front of him holding a tree limb with rapids cascading right next to him. His nephew said it took an hour to wrangle him up to the rock.”

Jay then hiked out (one of his six trips back and forth during the rescue) to call in mutual aid from the Orange County Technical Rescue Team and Highland Lake Fire Deptartment while Ann and Bisland stayed with the cold, injured man. She had a radio, but no reception. She shed some of her turnout gear and climbed down to him to give oxygen. “I lost the (bunker) pants and boots and climbed down behind him. I felt I had a secure purchase point and could sit behind him and give him a ‘bear hug,’ ergo stabilizing him and prevent him from going in the river if he collapsed.”

Eventually their mutual aid arrived, with life jackets and other extrication equipment they needed. Don “Bosco” Hunt swung down in front of the injured man to lock the victim between him and Steimle.

After about two hours, the technical team arrived and the rescue moved back up the steep incline, using mountain climbing gear to move the victim in a Stokes basket up and over the two ravines, to a four-wheeler waiting on a newly brushed out trail.

“Paramedics arrived, Tom [the fisherman] was further stabilized, and given his advanced age and history, we decided to fly him to a trauma center,” Steimle wrote.

“As we came out of the woods, the scope of the event really made me look twice. The event was huge! And required lots of man (and woman) power. It needed many of our mutual aid companies to handle traffic, response vehicles and keep you all safe while we all were helping Tom.”

“I am grateful for my comrades. And so very awed by the skills and mutual aid that we have just a phone call away,” she wrote.

Steimle concluded her report with a postscript. “P.S. I ruined my socks; think I should put in for a new pair? :)”

Concluding her reading, Rajsz called Steimle to the front of the room and, as the audience applauded, presented her with two new pairs of socks.