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Posted on Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

Firefighters use rope system to rescue woman injured while sledding near Chelsea

By Sven Gustafson

Firefighters from the Chelsea Area Fire Authority used a rope-and-pulley rescue system Saturday to help a woman injured after striking a tree while sledding in a remote, wooded area.

The incident took place around 3:30 p.m. Saturday at a popular sledding hill northeast of the intersection of Waterloo Road and M-52, about two miles northwest of Chelsea.

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The woman, who was described only as being in her late 30s or early 40s, had been sledding with her son. She had ridden alone down a narrow 3-foot wide path through a wooded area on the north side of the hill when she struck a tree, firefighter Robert Stelzer said.

"The south side (of the hill) is generally free from any trees, brush, any thing that you'd be able to hit," Stelzer said. "The north side is designated paths, 5 feet (wide) at the max… I would say it's more of a challenge to make it though those."

Chelsea firefighters arrived at the scene to find the woman being attended to by paramedics, who had secured her to a backboard with a cervical collar. She was bleeding from at least one wound to the forehead and was complaining of back pain, but was otherwise alert and able to move, Stelzer said.

Firemen set up a low-angle rope rescue using ropes, pulleys and trees as an anchor point to bring the woman about 50 yards to the top of the hill. The rescue involved connecting two rescuers wearing harnesses to the victim in the basket.

"it was pretty icy and steep, so we basically rigged the system to support their weight so they could lean into it and get back up the hill," said Stelzer, who is also a member of the Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team.

The woman was transported to the Chelsea Community Hospital for treatment.

The whole rescue took 26 minutes, "which is pretty good based on our training and what we've done before this," Stelzer said. It was also the fire department's first real-world use of the rescue technique, he said.



Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

Most folks sled on the south side of Waterloo Rd. there. They must of been over the hill on the north side of Waterloo Road. We've walked there and it is a nice hiking area.


Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

This individuals are always ready and willing to take care of us all -- not just fires but other accidents as well. God Bless and have a marvelous 2013. And, I hope the sledder is a-okay.


Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Give me a break. Sounds serious!


Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

Based on the description of the incident, she should be charged for the rescue as sledding on a narrow path in trees is not responsible.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.



Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

Talk about a lucky day. Anyone with any sense of karma would have made the ambulance to the hospital stop on the way to buy lottery tickets.


Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.

From WebMD: "Researchers analyzed data for 1997-2007 from the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. They found an estimated 229,023 injuries from sledding serious enough for ER treatment in that time period among children under 19." Time to ban sleds. I'll bet this one was unregistered and the operator had no permit. Maybe trees should be banned, too. We now live in a paperless society. Trees are a proven dangerous, costly and unnecessary evil.


Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

And fingerprint the owner! We need a national database of all those sleds out there! And we need to start cutting down those dangerous trees. How dare they grow in the way.


Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

I do believe they jest!


Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

Since when does a sled have to be registered? Sled's I am familiar with are wooden with two metal runners. In this case I presume sledding was used as a general term.


Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Oh Yes! We must have permits. And to get a permit we need to pay a "sled and toboggan tax" to support these emergency personnel.


Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

I believe "seat collar" should be 'C-collar' as in cervical spine. But you need more than just the 'C-collar' to secure someone to a back board. Would be nice to see photos or video of rescue, might be a good training film?

Sven Gustafson

Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

Ack, you're right. Thanks for pointing out. I made the change.


Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Gotta watch out for those trees!


Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Sonny Bono died from hitting one of those wood nymphs while skiing. Glad she is ok. Another reason i don't do sledding or skiing.


Sun, Dec 30, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

Dedicated, disciplined, and well-trained: I have no idea who these firefighters are, but I'd describe them like that.