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Local News

Rescuers Called to Multiple Backcountry Injuries in 1 Day

Two incidents involve people hurt when their horses fall off the trail, and in one incident a mountain biker plunges over a bridge into a creek bed

Emergency personnel from Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue, the U.S. Forest Service, Santa Barbara County Fire and American Medical Response teamed up late Saturday afternoon to respond to three incidents, each requiring rescues.

Two incidents involved people injured when each of their horses fell off the trail down steep canyon sides, and the third involved a mountain biker falling over a bridge 12 feet into a creek bed.

Early Saturday afternoon. a group of Forest Service employees along with a couple of horse wranglers rode out from Rancho Oso and up to 19 Oaks Campground on the Santa Cruz trail, about 2 miles north of Upper Oso Campground in the Paradise Canyon area. As they were coming back down the trail, one of the female Forest Service employees and her horse went off the side and fell into a steep deep canyon.

She complained of injuries, and some of her companions rode down the trail until they could obtain cell coverage at Upper Oso to call 9-1-1.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department’s dispatch center initiated a multiagency response. An engine crew from the U.S. Forest Service along with a county helicopter were able to locate the subject.

After initial emergency treatment, ground personnel carried the injured horse rider in a stretcher up to a clearing where the helicopter then transported her to the Santa Barbara Airport, where she was transferred to an AMR ambulance for transport to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. She was in stable condition later Saturday night.

As personnel from Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue were responding across the first crossing of the Santa Ynez River, they received a report from a hiker that a mountain biker had fallen off a nearby bridge and was injured.

Upon arrival, SAR members found a male in his late 30s in the bottom of a creek bed bleeding from a cut knee and a lacerated head wound. Apparently the rider was trying to negotiate his bike around the lock gate at one end of the bridge when he lost his balance and tumbled over the side about 12 feet, hitting his head on a rock.

Rescuers administered first aid to the subject and then directed an AMR ambulance crew standing by for the horse rescue to respond to evaluate the man for transport. AMR paramedics evaluated the man, but he refused further treatment and was released.

About that time, a second horse rider was reported to the rescue crews still stationed up at Upper Oso. Two of the horse riders with the original U.S. Forest Serviced ride had started down the trail back to Upper Oso when the horse in the front started to turn around on the trail, causing his rear legs to slide off the side of the single track trail and down a sheer 30-foot cliff to the rock creek bed below. Upon hitting the creek bed, the male rider in his late 50s was flung off the horse and hit his head and back on large rocks before coming to a rest.

Personnel from Search and Rescue, County Fire and the Forest Service once again hiked up the trail and found the injured man in the creek bed with his horse also lying near him. The subject was immobilized for possible back injuries and lashed into a stretcher. Members of all three agencies then worked together to lift him out of the creek bed and back up to the trail, where he was wheeled out to Upper Oso for transport by an AMR ambulance crew to Cottage Hospital. He was reported in serious but stable condition.

During this time the subject’s horse got itself up into a standing position but was demonstrating signs of being in shock from her fall and injuries. Two members of County Search and Rescue stayed with the horse while her owner was carried out. Several SAR members then returned to assist after transferring the injured rider to AMR. After calming the horse, SAR members were able to scout out a route and safely encourage the horse back up to the trail, where she then was slowly walked out to Upper Oso and turned over to personnel from the Santa Barbara Equine Assistance and Evacuation Team.

While left shaken and with a lot of cuts and bruises, the horse appeared not to suffer any life-threatening injuries.

All rescue personnel departed Upper Oso about 7 p.m. after completing a string of rescues in quick succession.

— Drew Sugars is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

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