Hunter Hung Upside-Down From Treestand for Two Days

An Oregon hunter fell from his treestand and hung upside-down before two hunters heard his cries for help. The most dangerous part was the rescue.
Hunter Hung Upside-Down From Treestand for Two Days

A hunter in northeast Oregon fell from nearly 30 feet above ground and found himself entangled in his safety harness, hanging upside down for two days. Eddie Voelker, of Prineville, Oregon, is 70 years old and is last reported in a medically induced coma in a nearby hospital.

The story was first reported by the East Oregonian:

“Crews removed him from the tree using a bucket truck from Oregon Trail Electric Co-op. Voelker was life-flighted to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland and, according to staff there, is still in critical condition.

“Jeanette Jacoby, a family friend of Voelker’s, told the East Oregonian via email that he is now in a drug-induced coma, and doctors did a procedure on him on Wednesday to relieve pressure on his brain. She said he was breathing on his own for a while, but on Thursday, doctors put him back on a ventilator. Jacoby said after he was brought down from the tree someone had to perform CPR on him.”

A 70-year-old Oregon hunter was rescued after hanging upside-down for two days about 30 feet above ground. Photo: Umatilla County Sheriff's Office.

The rescue was complicated by the extended period of time Voelker hung upside-down. According to EMS1.com, “being upside down for an extended length of time can lead to poor circulation and a multitude of issues — potentially life-threatening — for the body once it's upright. It was actually better that Voelker hadn't been able to right himself when no paramedics were around.”

Two hunters heard Voelker yelling for help. But Voelker’s cries for help echoed in the woods in a way that made it difficult for the two hunters to pinpoint the fallen hunter’s location. As a result, they went back to their vehicle and drove around to cover more ground. The hunters-turned-rescuers couldn’t free Voelker, so they went for help. On the way, they flagged down a car and asked the passerby to sit with Voelker until they returned.

They returned with a rescue helicopter, but the flight crew didn’t have the right equipment to get Voelker down.

More from EMS1.com:

“About 30 people from all different local agencies arrived, but no one had equipment that was tall enough to reach him.

“Then, a paramedic with the La Grande Fire Department remembered seeing the local electric utility training with their bucket trucks to rescue linemen who are injured on the job. The rescuers called Oregon Trail Electric Co-Op and made the unusual request for help.

"I wasn't certain they were going to play ball," Capt. Robert Tibbetts said. "Not because they aren't helpful, but because it was such an unusual request. It was rolling the dice.”

Ultimately, the U.S. Forest Service set up a rope system to slowly lower Voelker into the bucket, and as they started to do that, his medical condition deteriorated at an alarming rate. The hunter’s heart stopped briefly and rescuers performed CPR on the scene before air-lifting him out.

"We knew the likelihood of cardiac arrest is extraordinarily high. We knew we couldn't barge in and put him in the (bucket) truck without doing treatment first," Tibbetts said. "We were forced to slow it down a bit and deal with the medical side of it while developing a plan for the actual rescue."

Jacoby, the friend of the hunter’s family, told East Oregonian that Voelker's loved ones returned to the site to bring home his hunting dogs, which had remained with him during the two-day ordeal.

How Common Are Treestand Falls?

If 20 avid hunters were gathered in a room, research shows that one among them will fall from a treestand in his or her lifetime. And, according to Safety Research & Strategies, the use of a safety harness alone can sometimes lead to fatalities for a variety of reasons, namely due to something called suspension trauma.

But the hunting industry and non-profit and governmental agencies are being aggressive about providing educational information and innovative gear to prevent injury or death from treestand falls.

But the hunting industry and non-profit and governmental agencies are being aggressive about providing educational information and innovative gear to prevent injury or death from treestand falls. Pictured is the Emergency Descender. It's a new, automatic and hands-free device available to hunters this season. Click the image to watch how the hands-free device works. 

Last month, Grand View Outdoors partnered with Primal Treestands, a hunting-centric manufacturer who just introduced the Emergency Descender. It's a new, automatic and hands-free device available to hunters this hunting season. As part of it's campaign to launch fall products, the company produced educational content on treestand safety guidelines developed by the Treestand Manufactuer’s Association (TMA), which included interactive quizzes posted to social media and data on treestand falls and common health hazards that can occur when a hunter hangs from a treestand for long periods of time.

TMA recommends that hunters, “always have a plan in place for rescue, including the use of cell phones or signal devices that may be easily reached and used while suspended. If rescue personnel cannot be notified, you must have a plan for recovery/escape. If you have to hang suspended for a period of time before help arrives, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree or doing any other form of continuous motion. Failure to recover in a timely manner could result in serious injury or death. If you do not have the ability to recover or escape, hunt from the ground.”

The association also advises hunters to carry emergency signal devices such as a cell phone, two-way radio, whistle, signal flare, PDL (personal locator device) and flashlight on your person at all times and within reach, even while suspended.

In the case of the Oregon incident, one of the main barriers to rescue was the hunter’s inability to capture the attention of other hunters or people within the vicinity of his treestand. Prior to the two hunters who ultimately discovered Voelker, two other hunters heard Voelker’s cries but failed to locate the fallen hunter.

You can download a PDF of the TMA’s treestand safety guidelines here.

Related: The Emergency Descender Is New Treestand-Safety Tech for Hunters

 

 

Featured Photo: Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office



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