Hiker pinned by ‘refrigerator-sized’ boulder saved in dramatic rescue near Leavenworth

SnoHawk10 (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office Helicopter Search and Rescue Team)

A hiker who got trapped under a refrigerator-sized boulder in a remote area near Leavenworth is recovering after Monday’s dramatic rescue mission.

According to the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), someone called 911 at around 9:30 a.m. saying that their friend, 28-year-old Ben Delahunty from Montana, was trapped under a massive rock in the Lake Viviane area. He told dispatch that both of Delahunty’s legs and his wrist were pinned by the boulder, and it was too heavy to move.

Photo Courtesy: Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team

A CCSO Search and Rescue coordinator was able to talk on the phone with Delahunty’s hiking partner, and pinpoint their exact location. However, after learning the two were in an area that would take crews several hours to reach, they called for reinforcements.

On top of a several hours long hike, rescue crews would have had to carry a piece of equipment capable of removing a refrigerator-sized boulder. In order to save the man’s life in a timely manner, the CCSO says they made a call to State Emergency Management to request a helicopter with hoisting capability. Local fire agencies were also contacted to see if they had any equipment that could help.

  • The Wenatchee Valley Fire Department (WVFD) answered saying they would provide air bladders, which are flat form bags that can lift extremely heavy objects when inflated, and a 1MR helicopter to fly rescuers to the scene.
  • The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) Helicopter Rescue Team also answered the call, saying they would provide their SnoHawk10 helicopter, which has hoisting capability.

At around 12:20 p.m., the SCSO’s SnoHawk10 was able to drop off the first squad of paramedics to the scene. Simultaneously, the WVFD’s 1MR helicopter began shuttling rescuers and equipment.

Crews on the ground immediately faced an additional challenge; the hiker was in an area that required ropes, so crews could repel down without risking a fall. Using air bladders, crews were able to free the hiker from the boulder just before 3:00 p.m.

According to the CCSO, as soon as they freed the hiker, the wind started to pick up, creating yet another challenge for helicopter crews. Both attempts to hoist the hiker up from his position, and pick him up from a nearby landing zone were canceled. 

In case the wind gusts would never die down, additional volunteers from Chelan County Mountain Rescue responded on the ground to carry him away in a wheeled stretcher.

Nearly two hours later, the wind finally died down, giving SCSO’s SnoHawk10 another opportunity to attempt another hoist operation. They were successful. 

Delahunty was flown to Central Washington Hospital with significant injuries to his leg, and he is expected to recover.

After completing their mission, rescuers on scene hiked back – making it to the trailhead by around 11:00 p.m.

"This rescue presented challenges not seen very often and could not have been accomplished without the partnerships established with local and out-of-area agencies", said the CCSO in a Tuesday press release.

Members of the CCSO, WVFD, SCSO, Cascade Ambulance and Chelan County Mountain Rescue assisted in this rescue mission.

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