A bike trip through Forests for the World with her friends Saturday morning turned into an ambulance ride to the hospital for a 27-year-old woman visiting the city from Toronto.
The woman lost control of her mountain bike and flipped while descending a steep hill on the Greenway Trail and suffered a back injury, just after one of her travel companions crashed his bike and gouged his arm when he landed on a rock.
Three Prince George Fire Rescue crews were dispatched to the Forest for the World parking lot just west of the UNBC campus and after treating her to minimize movement of her back they used a one-wheeled stretcher (big wheel) to drag the woman to safety.
There were two other riders in the group and one of them made the 9-1-1 call for help at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The accident scene was about five kilometres from the parking lot and it upon arrival it took about 20 minutes for firefighters to walk in and reach the woman.
“Her front brake stuck on the hill and she went the handlebars,” said one of the riders, who asked to remain anonymous. “She said ‘I can’t breathe.’ I was scared. After about 15 minutes she said she was OK. But we were just so worried. You don’t want to risk trying to walk if you don’t have to.”
During their initial assessment of the woman’s condition, PGFR Cpt. Kevin Woodhouse said she tried to walk on her own but the pain in her back returned and she was placed on the stretcher, with a clamshell covering her face to keep the rain off. At about 11:15 p.m. they returned to the parking lot and she was transferred to a waiting ambulance who took her to UHNBC.
“It was a pretty steep, 30-foot embankment and she had a good roll but she didn’t hit any rocks - the other injury, that’s what he hit, he rolled off and hit a rock,” said Woodhouse. “We packaged her up and did spinal precautions just as that, for a precaution.
“For the 20 minutes it took us to get there she kind of thought (she was OK) but as soon as she stood up she wasn’t mobile.”
Woodhouse said the fire department has already received approval to buy a two-person side-by-side quad for off-road rescues, but the pandemic crisis has put that spending on hold.
“It was budgeted and the city was getting us one, just like our two rescue water craft, but that was all pre-COVID,” said Woodhouse. “The city takes very good care of us and they know, because we have had (fire department) members injured on these rescues, on Pidherny. They twist their ankles of whatever.
“It’s exertion, no matter, because you’ve got, I’d say ,70 pounds of rescue gear plus a patient of 120 or 130 pounds, and that’s a lighter woman.”
Woodhouse said there was an incident a year or two ago in which a heavier-set man broke his leg riding on the trails at Pidherny recreation site and had to be dragged using the big wheel.
“We were 45 minutes down to him and 45 minutes out, and we end up with exhausted members,” said Woodhouse.
“We’re going to get a patient out no matter what. It’s that Golden Hour, if that would have been a heart attack, it would have been nice to get there faster. Our guys are in such good shape and they step it up too. Had that call come in as a cardiac we would have been in there double-time and the guys would have jogged in and jogged out.”
Woodhouse commended city council for its efforts to better equip its first responders. He said the city is in the process of producing detailed rescue maps of all backcountry trails that surround the city, which will identify trail features, vehicle access points and hazards which could impede rescues.