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Rescue at Glen Onoko Falls involves 45 personnel, lasts four hours

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    Emergency crews responded to a rescue Sunday afternoon at the first set of falls at Glen Onoko in Lehigh Gorge State Park. About 45 personnel were a part of the rescue. COPYRIGHT LARRY NEFF/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published October 22. 2018 12:38PM

Emergency crews were on scene in Jim Thorpe for four hours as part of a rescue that began Sunday afternoon at Glen Onoko Falls in Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Borough fire Chief Vince Yaich said the initial call at 3:15 p.m. was for a victim who fell in the vicinity of the first and second falls, but they got other reports that he was up at the third falls. He was ultimately found in the area of the first falls.

Yaich said the man went down over the embankment about 25 or 35 feet at a steep, inaccessible part. He said reports were that the man went off the trail trying to take a shortcut, wound up losing his footing and fell.

They did not get the victim down to the rescue vehicle until around 7 p.m., as other emergency personnel had to go up on the trail with lighting to bring the patient down, and numerous rope deployments were put out, Yaich said.

“The initial call was for a broken leg with definite deformity,” Yaich said. “Some hypothermia was setting in, he was getting a little shocky. I do believe he was conscious the whole time our initial personnel got there with him.”

Yaich said also assisting at the scene were the Franklin, Lehighton, Nesquehoning, Penn Forest and Lehigh & Lausanne fire companies.

He said it took about a total of 45 personnel, including the medics on the trail, to conduct the rescue, plus support personnel for the helicopter landing and various other officers.

“A big thank you to our responding departments that have to leave their towns to do these Glen rescues,” he said. “These rescues can get very labor intensive. It’s always an extended period of time pulling manpower from their towns, and that jeopardizes their towns.”

Yaich said his department responds to an average of 15 to 20 incidents between the Glen and the Lehigh River each year, yet nothing seems to be done.

“Still to this point, we are getting no type of suggestions, answers, if the state’s going to do anything up there,” he said. “But this particular area of the trail, we call it the falls trail — the trail that runs along the creek all the way up to the falls — the Game Commission should do whatever it would take to close that trail off.”

Yaich said he’s at his wits’ end.

“I say the same thing every time, and it’s just falling on deaf ears,” he said. “With the heavy rains we’ve gotten this year, it’s washed out even worse.”

Yaich said he gets irritated when he reads comments on Facebook concerning rescues at the Glen.

“I get very frustrated by some of the comments from people on Facebook that say it’s their job. It is not our job,” he said.

“People got to realize that every fire department in Carbon County is volunteer; these guys leave their homes taking the chance of getting injured for some people who think they know the area.”

He emphasized, “It’s not our job, we’re volunteers. I got firemen in their 60s going up there and helping those people.”

"reports were that the man went off the trail trying to take a shortcut, wound up losing his footing and fell"

How about instead of closing the falls, we just stop saving morons.
We need legislation that allows for rescuers to charge a fee for their efforts, particularly volunteer organizations. Now, once the rescuers pass the victim onto the EMT's, ambulances, and helicopters, then the fees start. Should start with the volunteers.

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