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