Mountain & Trail News

Expeditious Rescue Saves Life of German Hiker in White Mountains

CONCORD, N.H. — Fortuitous circumstances leading to a lightning-fast rescue saved the life of a German man who had a serious medical incident while hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest today, Thursday, October 6, 2011.

Robert Obermeier of Munich, Germany, and his wife Monica were hiking on the Sabbaday Falls Trail in the town of Waterville Valley, N.H., about 10:10 a.m. when Robert collapsed about 1/4 mile from the trailhead. His breathing stopped. Just minutes later, two other hikers, not in their party, who were both medical doctors and also from Germany, happened upon the couple. The doctors immediately offered assistance and began cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on Robert Obermeier. Other hikers nearby ran down to the trailhead to try to notify authorities. A bus driver, waiting for a group of children in the parking lot, used her radio to call 911 for emergency help. This expedited the rapid response, because cell phone coverage is extremely limited in the area’s mountainous terrain.

The radio distress call came in at 10:15 a.m. New Hampshire Fish and Game Conservation Officer Sergeant Brian Abrams was patrolling in the area and immediately responded. Paramedics from the Conway Ambulance Service were already on scene, and personnel from the Conway Fire Department and the U.S. Forest Service Saco District soon arrived to provide additional help.  The paramedics utilized a portable defibrillator to revive Obermeier. He was then strapped onto a litter, and the rescue team jogged down the trail with him, arriving at the waiting ambulance at 12:49 p.m.

Obermeier was taken to Conway Memorial Hospital, where he was stabilized, then transported by the Dartmouth Hitchcock Advance Response Team (DHART) helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine. A German-speaking staff person from Conway Memorial Hospital got in her car and led Monica Obermeier, who was driving the couple’s rental car, to the Maine Medical Center, about 60 miles away, and stayed to help her communicate with the hospital staff.

“So many fortunate circumstances added up to make today’s rescue successful,” said Abrams. “It made a huge difference that these helpful German doctors happened to be right there and immediately started CPR on the victim. Then the bus driver using her radio to call for help saved critical minutes. Everyone pitched in and did exactly the right thing – and fast. As a result, a man’s life was saved.”

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