Off-duty OSI Special Agent orchestrates mountain rescue

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading, OSI Public Affairs

A recent rescue mission on Mount Herman saw an off-duty OSI Special Agent teaming up with a Swiss horseman and his horse, Rodeo, to aid an injured man.

The agent, who requested anonymity, set out for a day of paragliding, and planned to meet with another paragliding enthusiast, who he connected with through an online community devoted to their shared passion of the adventure sport. 

"We have a paragliding association and a couple of group chats for this region,” the agent said, detailing the unexpected chain of events that led to the rescue mission. “There was a guy who wrote to the group. I didn't know him, but he was planning to hike up Mount Hermon, a spot we usually ascend to paraglide off the top.”

The agent, prepared for a day of paragliding with nearly 40 pounds of equipment in tow, reached out to the inexperienced enthusiast. "He was wondering if anybody knew the route, and I ended up responding, offering to meet him at the trailhead to show him the way," the agent said. “But he was already hiking so I hurried to catch up, finding myself about 30-40 minutes behind him on a different trail.”

As the agent navigated the mountain, but the day's plans took an unexpected detour from an anticipated aerial adventure to an urgent rescue mission after the man reached out to the agent for help after falling somewhere along the trail. 

“I said, ‘I can either come up to you and try to help, or I can go back down and try to get medical help,’” the agent said. The injured hiker, uncertain of the best option, suggested calling for help. The agent, however, replied, “‘Let me just come up to you, and then we'll figure it out from there.’” 

With urgency guiding his actions, the agent made a swift decision to lighten his load for the trek ahead. “I dumped my equipment, my paraglider and stuff, right there on the spot. I found a boulder and hid it behind it, just so I could move more quickly,” he said. 

Now unburdened, the agent pressed on, “I started trying to find him, navigating through the wilderness with a single goal in mind of reaching the hiker in distress,” he said. 

The agent's journey took a serendipitous turn when he encountered a Swiss horseman walking along the mountain with his horse, Rodeo. Recognizing the potential for assistance, the agent swiftly enlisted their help. 

“Together, me, the horse, and the guy with the horse followed a pin that [the injured hiker] had dropped me to find his location,” he said. “And because he was so high up the mountain, there's a point where the trail is too steep for the horse to go, right,” and at this point, the horse and its owner had to stay behind while the agent proceeded on foot.

After leaving the horse and its owner behind, the agent continued his search alone, eventually finding the injured paraglider after about 30 minutes. He then faced the task of helping him descend the steep and narrow trail to a point where they could rejoin the horse for the journey down. During the descent, the agent shouldered the responsibility for his fellow paraglider's safety. He described the ordeal as equivalent to climbing 80 to 100 flights of stairs, emphasizing the day's physical demands.

“Anyway, we hobbled together, I had his arm around me and was holding him up and hobbled down the path,” he said. This process underscored the nature of their situation and the unwavering determination of the agent to ensure the safety of a fellow paraglider.

At this point, he intersected with two other hikers who were hiking up the mountain. The two other hikers helped the agent and injured man the whole way down. One carried the bags down, the other helped pull the saddle with the agent. 

In the span of roughly two hours, the agent orchestrated a rescue, beginning with a distressing text and culminating at the trailhead where safety awaited. The search for the injured paraglider was roughly 30 minutes, while the subsequent descent, aided by Rodeo the horse, took an additional hour and a half.

Once at the trailhead, the injured man promptly sought medical attention, revealing a severely fractured ankle requiring immediate surgery and sidelining his paragliding activities for at least six months. Reflecting on the rescue, the agent highlighted the invaluable time saved through his swift action.

“It would have taken hours for a search and rescue team to assemble, get the necessary equipment up the mountain, find him, and then bring him down,” he said, adding the critical nature of such delays, pointing out the associated risks like deteriorating conditions or impending nightfall.

Leveraging his OSI training, the agent felt a profound sense of duty to aid the injured hiker, despite his training not specifically encompassing wilderness rescue. 

“I sifted through my training, trying to find a relevant skill, like the fireman's carry as a last resort,” he said, adding that his commitment to law enforcement deepened his sense of responsibility, ensuring he did everything in his power to help.