The Custer County Search and Rescue Team was among five groups to receive the prestigious National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) Valor Award at the association’s national conference in Tunica, Miss. last Thursday, May 13. This is only the third time this award has been given and the first time ever to a ground unit, said Westcliffe team captain Bob Pruiksma. No one from Westcliffe was able to attend the ceremony in Mississippi. On July 27 and 28, 2009 a rescue took place entirely at night between Crestone Peak and the Needles in a gully notorious for rock falls. Rescuers had to climb nearly 4,500 vertical feet, ascend more than 3,000 vertical feet to the, summit, perform a 1,700 foot technical lowering, climb back up 1,500 feet and descend another 1,500 feet. Ten successive roped technical rescue lowering stations were required to lower the injured climber from 14,000 feet to a helicopter at 12,300 feet – all before severe thunderstorms developed over the peaks.
Twenty-six members from five teams conducted the high altitude rescue that was “above and beyond the call of duty, exemplifying the selfless, perhaps risky commitment to others embodied in the NASAR motto, ‘That Others May Live.”‘ The rescued man had a broken leg.
The other four teams were The Alpine Rescue Team from Evergreen, Douglas County Search and Rescue Team, El Paso County Search and Rescue Team and Rocky Mountain Rescue Group from Boulder. “We had great communications with Kirtland Air Force Base and Flight for Life,” said Pruiksma. The rescue was unique because the groups worked quickly at night to avoid incoming weather; five teams worked together over severe terrain using only headlamps; radio command and coordination was done from different sides of the mountain in three areas; the evacuation required creative and improvised expertise; and the physical demand on the rescuers was intense. The NASAR Valor Award was established in 1977 for out of the ordinary rescues for victims in peril with rescuers having placed themselves in danger while maintaining the use of good judgment.
Custer County Search and Rescue (CCSAR) is a volunteer support group for the Custer County Sheriffs office. CCSAR has been in existence approximately 40 years and currently boasts 42 members with an eight member ATV team, an eight member horse team, 10 technical climbing experts and 16 ground-pounders. All members of CCSAR receive general rescue training and specialized teams leverage their training and experience for difficult rescues. Custer County Search and Rescue also aids surrounding counties on rescue missions when called upon. – Jacque Keller (Courtesy of The Wet Mountain Tribune, 20 May, 2010)
If interested, you can download the 2010 NASAR Valor Award Nomination.