Police Reports

Man falls 150 feet down mine shaft

Photo Hanover, NH Fire Department

by Alex Nuti-de Biasi
CORINTH–A man who fell approximately 150 feet down a mine shaft on Saturday night was injured and taken to the hospital after emergency responders performed a technical nighttime rescue.

The incident happened sometime on Saturday evening. The man, who has not been identified but was not from this area, was with a friend or friends when he fell down a shaft at Pike Hill Mine in Corinth. The fall happened at the Eureka mine opening, one of two located at the Pike Hill Mine complex.

A 9-1-1 call was placed at approximately 9:42 p.m., although it took as many as two hours for the man’s friend to find a home to call for help.

Hanover Fire Chief Martin MacMillian said the home he came to belonged to a Corinth firefighter who is familiar with the location of the fall. Ten minutes later, Corinth requested the assistance of the Technical Rescue Task Force featuring members of the Hanover, Hartford, Lebanon, and Thetford fire departments.

“Our part in it was very limited,” said Corinth Fire Chief Ed Pospisil. “We don’t have that equipment for technical rescues. You need all kinds of lines and pullies. This is way out of our league.” Still, he noted that two of his firefighters lowered themselves down to comfort the injured man until a rescue could be performed.

MacMillan said the task force arrived at 10:50 p.m.

“It’s rough terrain,” he said, adding the ground near the entrance was “frozen” and “icy.” It’s not clear whether the man tripped, slipped, or lost his balance, but he wound up plummeting down a steep slope, much of it a 45-degree angle. There was about a 15- to 20-feet vertical drop at the end before the man fell into a pool of water.

MacMillan said the rescue team set up a twin-tensioned rope rescue system and lowered two paramedics into the shaft to evaluate the patient. The ropes were 200 feet in length and they were anchored about 30 feet from the opening. They had about 10 feet of rope left when they reached the injured man.

“The person fell a long way,” MacMillan said

After evaluation, the injured man was raised in a stokes basket and loaded onto a Thetford Fire Department ATV. He was then taken two-thirds of a mile to a waiting Upper Valley Ambulance that ferried him to a UVM Health Network Helicopter.

The total time it took from rescuers entering the shaft to the patient’s arrival at the helicopter was less than an hour.

“For technical rescues, you’re doing a good job if you get it done in under an hour,” MacMillan said. MacMillan said rescue teams briefly considered an alternate, lateral rescue route through a separate opening but they quickly scrapped the idea due to the presence of waist-deep water.

Several Upper Valley fire departments, including Bradford, Corinth, Tri-Village, Thetford, Hartford, Hanover, Lebanon, and Thetford, were involved in the rescue. Several others provided station coverage. Upper Valley Ambulance and Corinth-Topsham FAST Squad were also involved.

Pospisil said it’s difficult to train for these low-frequency events that often require specialized training. MacMillan added that typically fire departments in medium- to large-sized cities are the only ones capable of having enough in-house manpower and equipment to handle these rescues.

MacMillan said he could not disclose the nature of the man’s injuries due to federal privacy laws.

Mine shaft falls are rare but not unheard of in the Upper Valley with its three Orange County copper mines. A 70-year-old Vershire hiker died in July 2008 after he fell approximately 60 feet into a copper mine shaft at Ely Mine in Vershire.

Email: editor@jonews.com. Republished with permission from April 28 Journal-Opinion.

Categories: Police Reports

2 replies »

  1. The teams and individuals who train for and accomplished this night time cold weather icy wet conditions highly technical mine shaft rescue of an injured man deserve our recognition and praise. Like our military, police, fire and EMS, these specialty rescue crews serve the public at a moments notice, putting their safety at risk and giving of themselves for the benefit of others.

    They are our heroes.

  2. What a bunch of bad-asses. I’m glad to hear the guy made it. Just falling into cold water, and needing to stay put for a few hours would be bad enough without the preceding fall.

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