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Helicopter rescues man after fall into ravine near Gales Creek Campground

by: COURTESY PHOTO: FOREST GROVE FIRE & RESCUE
 - An HH-60J Jayhawk from Coast Guard Air Station Astoria responds to rescue a surveyor who fell 20 feet into a creek near Gales Creek Campground Thursday, July 17.A surveyor who fell 20 feet into a creek bed near Gales Creek Campground last Thursday afternoon suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.

According to Forest Grove Fire & Rescue officials, the man — who was with Washington County surveying a private timber property — fell in steep terrain July 17 on private property near milepost 36 on Wilson River Highway.

A HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Astoria arrived shortly after firefighters called for assistance around 2:30 p.m. and hoisted the man out of the creek.

The man, Dennis Keister, 57, works for the Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation as a technician, according to Stephen Roberts, communications coordinator for the land-use agency.

Keister has been employed by the county as a survey technician since April.

FGF&R spokesman Dave Nemeyer said that during the rescue process the helicopter pilot struck a maple tree "with his main rotor and tail rotor" but that the craft righted itself and continued with its task.

"It got full power and off it went," said Nemeyer. "It's an incredibly difficult thing to hold a helicopter in a hover and then do everything you need to do related to this kind of operation."

The injured man was "conscious and talking with our crews, but in extreme pain from what appeared to be possible broken ribs and internal injuries suffered during the fall," Nemeyer noted. The pilot lifted the surveyor approximately 75 feet into the helicopter.

In retrospect, using air transport was the right call, he added. "Moving [the surveyor] out by ground would have made his injuries much worse," said Nemeyer.

Emergency personnel at first thought the helicopter would land at the North Plains glider park, but instead it went on to St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland.

"It was super intense," said Nemeyer. "In Forest Grove we're lucky to get to work with the Coast Guard on these kinds of rescues — this is the fourth time in my 12 years.

"They're meant to save people's lives, and they surely did yesterday."

The surveyor's injuries included a punctured lung, Nemeyer said.

Stephens said Keister remained hospitalized Friday afternoon in stable condition.

Crews from the Oregon Department of Forestry, Metro West Ambulance, Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Oregon State Police also assisted Forest Grove Fire & Rescue with the ground effort during the rescue.

— KOIN 6 News contributed to the reporting of this story.




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