Explorer Saved by Ocean Signal's rescueME PLB1 from Critical ATV Incident

wave decor
1 lives saved
Crash or collision
Normal conditions
Rescue location
P4JF+2V Baker City, OR, USA 44.730118505912°N, -117.87536055176°W
Rescue team
Local Search and Rescue
Rescue duration

What happened?

My brother, an avid mountain climber, gave me an OceanSignal rescueMe PLB1  with the instructions, “Don’t go without it”!

I have a dear friend named Bill, and we’ve been exploring old mining roads and trails in the wilds of Eastern Oregon since the 1980s. One fateful day, on May 25, 2023, we found ourselves deep in a canyon in the high country. Bill, who was riding his ATV, suddenly lost control and it flipped over, trapping him underneath. Panic surged through me, but I remembered my brother’s advice, and without a second thought, I activated my PLB1.

I hastily grabbed the mirror from my ATV, and my heart raced as I saw Bill lying unconscious, face down on the granite rock, his body clearly going into shock. Desperation and fear drove me to action. I carefully cleared his mouth and nose of debris, then covered him with my military poncho. With trembling hands, I managed to contact my wife, who was familiar with the area and could reach out to rescue services and Life Flight.

Time seemed to crawl as I awaited help. After what felt like an eternity, the distinctive thumping of a helicopter’s rotors filled the air. I frantically waved the mirror, and with a flash of sunlight, the helicopter zeroed in on our position. They set down about a mile from us.

My ATV became a lifeline as I ferried the Life Flight crew and the Baker and Malheur County Sheriffs, along with the Huntington QRU, who had hiked three grueling miles with all their equipment. The pilot informed me that they had received the beacon signal, and it was the beacon that got them close to us. It was a lesson in survival: in the mountains, you need something bright or maybe even a smoke bomb to be visible from the air.

Thanks to the beacon, my mirror, and the incredible dedication of the emergency crews, my friend Bill survived against all odds. He had a broken neck, a broken elbow, and numerous lacerations and bruises, but he was alive. It took about four painstaking hours from the moment of the accident until he was finally loaded into the Life Flight helicopter due to the remoteness of our location. I couldn’t help but think that if I had to ride out for help, it would have been after dark, and Bill might not have made it through the cold and shock.

This harrowing experience left me convinced that the PLB, guiding the emergency crews to our location, saved Bill’s life. It was a stark reminder that when you venture into the wild, you should never leave home without your beacon. The life it saves might very well be that of your good friend or a beloved family member.

Words of wisdom

Don’t leave home without your PLB and also something very bright for rescue crew to be able to see you.  In the mountains even with the beacon you need something bright colored or a colored smoke bomb so the helicopter can see you.  Also learn how to signal with a mirror.

Thank you note to the Ocean Signal team

In talking with Ana Pagan from ACR to get my PLB battery replaced, she recommended that I tell the story of how the PLB saved my friend’s life in the mountains after an ATV accident.  Thank you Ana for telling me about this.