A Spokane-area man who broke his leg Saturday on a rugged Colville National Forest trail partially set his own leg and got a two-helicopter rescue with help from ham radio operators.
Anthony Beam was airlifted to Spokane when a MedStar helicopter touched down in a cramped landing zone on a rocky mud flat about 20 miles northwest of Kettle Falls.
“I used to land helicopters in Vietnam, and this was enough to scare me,” said Peter Holter-Mehren, one of three fire district first responders who hiked six miles to reach the injured man.
A Fairchild Air Force Base helicopter was standing by to lift the victim out with a cable in case MedStar was unable to touch down in the approximately 75-by-75-foot landing zone.
Instead, with daylight fading, the military aircraft flew out the rescuers, including six Stevens County sheriff’s ambulance team members who also hiked to the accident scene on the shore of Emerald Lake in steep-sided Hoodoo Canyon.
“That was very neighborly of them,” Holter-Mehren said.
Beam, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was treated and released at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Holter-Mehren said Beam suffered a compound thigh-bone fracture when he fell on a steep trail and a rock rolled over his leg. One of his four companions used a ham radio to contact a Spokane ham operator, who relayed the information to the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office about 2 p.m.
Holter-Mehren and two colleagues from joint Ferry-Stevens County fire districts 3 and 8 found a vacationing Fairchild Air Force Base medic caring for Beam when they arrived.
The airman, whose name wasn’t available, had been camping nearby and came to help when he heard a commotion. Beam had already retracted an exposed bone, and the medic splinted the leg to a fallen tree trunk, Holter-Mehren said.