Some search and rescue crews call for increased access to hoist capabilities

Posted at 11:25 PM, May 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 01:25:51-04

DAVIS COUNTY, Utah -- It's a resource for the state but it comes with a lot of red tape in the way. Some search and rescue crews are calling for new protocol and legislation that they say will save lives.

With the mountains and lakes, search and rescue teams here in Utah often times call for hoist rescues. A job that’s usually done by LifeFlight but the civilian team can’t do rescues above water or at night. The National Guard can but it’s not an easy process to get them to a rescue.

“It's frustrating as a commander to get to 6 p.m. at dusk when we see a patient we know we can hoist them but that hoist apparatus has to leave because of protocol,” said Erik Bornemeier, commander of Davis County Search and Rescue.

In his 12 years with search and rescue, Bornemeirer has spent long nights waiting for dawn so LifeFlight can hoist someone off a steep cliff.

“You have to set up a mini ER at the base of the canyon to keep him alive until we can get him out,” Bornemeirer said.

In times like that Bornemeirer has called for the National Guard who can do hoist rescues at night or above water, but that puts speed bumps in the rescue process.

“Sometimes it can take up to eight hours to get that approval that's a problem especially if I have a patient who is in the water or if I have a critical patient who is up in the mountain that I cannot bring down,” Bornemeirer said.

Bornemeirer said it's time for Utah to follow other states’ examples and streamline the process.

“Instead of a rescue lasting 15 hours I could make the rescue last 3 hours,” Bornemeier said.

Getting people help when minutes matter by doing two things: creating legislation to streamline the process and create funding to make the National Guard medevacs available.

“250,000 dollars would give us 60 hours of blackhawk flight time,” Bornemeier said.

The medevacs would be used when LifeFlight can't, at night or over water.

For example, the tragedy at Bear Lake last year when a boat capsized and four died in the cold waters.

“If we had protocol set into place who knows we would have been able to change the outcome of that situation,” Bornemeier said.

The National Guard wants to help when civilian agencies have exhausted all resources.

“When they reach the limit of what they can do we definitely want to be there to help,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Hartvigsen, Army Nation Guard.

But their hands are tied without proper protocols or funding.

“There's nothing we can do here in Utah other than follow the procedures we've been given,” Hartvigsen said.

Bornemeier hopes to see changes that will improve rescue times and patient care.

“It would be frustrating to you if you're on the mountain at night knowing your loved one could be pulled off the mountain faster and safer it would be frustrating to know it would be eight hours to get that to you," Bornemeier said.

Several lawmakers in Davis County say they would be in support of such legislation.