Searchers find missing Ketchikan hiker

Posted: Sunday, May 17, 2009

KETCHIKAN - The woman who was rescued a day after taking a bad fall in the woods was doing well at Ketchikan General Hospital on Friday.

Marina Hinkle's husband, Brett Hinkle, said she was much improved, talking and sitting up in bed, according to hospital spokeswoman Marty West. Brett Hinkle told West his wife had some recall of her ordeal and the events that occurred.

"He was blown away by all the help" from emergency rescue agencies and all the other people who helped save his wife, West said.

Hinkle, 36, an emergency room nurse at the hospital, went for a hike alone Wednesday afternoon south of Ketchikan, starting near the Ravenwood subdivision. Shortly before 5 p.m. that day, she took a fall from a 15-foot cliff and was able to report her injuries by cell phone to Ketchikan Fire Department.

She could not pinpoint her exact location before her phone went dead.

An extensive search on land and by air was launched immediately, but she was not found until 9:20 a.m. Thursday, when she was unconscious but breathing.

South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department Chief Scott Davis arrived at the scene with siren blaring about three minutes after Hinkle called for help. Hinkle told dispatcher Darlene Guzman that she would be unable to yell out to searchers.

Guzman said Hinkle told her she had walked "way in, a mile or more" into the area.

"She told me she 'could barely hear the sirens,"' Guzman said.

Hinkle was heard moaning before the communication ended, about 15 minutes into her call for help, said Guzman. It was not known whether Hinkle passed out. The dispatcher continued trying to talk to Hinkle, trying to wake her, telling her "to stay with me," Guzman said. But Hinkle did not respond, Guzman said. The connection went dead about five minutes later, she said.

Ketchikan central dispatch called the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad at 4:47 p.m., according to KVRS spokesman Jerry Kiffer.

"The dispatcher had received a cell phone call from the victim, who advised she was in a lot of pain, could not move and did not know exactly where she was," according to Kiffer.

Searchers only knew that Hinkle had gone into the woods from the Ravenwood subdivision, he said.

Six rescue squad members, along with Ketchikan, South Tongass and North Tongass fire department personnel, began searching, said Kiffer. A Temsco helicopter used heat-sensing equipment provided by South Tongass, he said. The U.S. Coast Guard's Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Sitka arrived and joined in the search using night-vision equipment, he said.

The Temsco helicopter stopped searching at 9:07 p.m. due to darkness. The Jayhawk left at 11:34 p.m. after searching its assigned area, said Kiffer.

Interviews with Hinkle's family resulted in a shift of the search area farther to the south, Kiffer said. Again, there were no sightings or contact with Hinkle, said Kiffer.

A large number of searchers was unable to find any clue to Hinkle's whereabouts before dark Wednesday night, he said. Rescue squad members continued searching after dark, with all of them coming out of the woods by 3:15 a.m. The search resumed at 6 a.m. Thursday morning.

Hinkle was found by KVRS member Kathy Holcomb and Alaska State Wildlife Trooper Mark Finses at 9:20 a.m. on a logging road searchers had looked at Wednesday evening, said Alaska State Trooper Capt. Kurt Ludwig.

Hinkle was unconscious, but rescue squad spokesman Jerry Kiffer said her location on the road was a good sign because it meant she had been able to move, either during the night or in the morning.

South Tongass, Guardian Flight and rescue squad crews "packaged the patient and airlifted (her) to KGH," Kiffer said.

Her family was told she'd been found and met her at the hospital, said Ludwig.

Kiffer said he'd been amazed by the number of agencies and individuals that came out to help in the search.

"It's a good problem, to have more people than you know how to use," he said.

In addition to those organizations already mentioned, others who came to help in the search included people from Ketchikan Police Department, Port and Harbors Department, KGH, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Ketchikan Coast Guard personnel, Ketchikan Search Dogs, the Seadogs group from Juneau and Juneau Mountain Rescue, according to troopers and KVRS.

Kiffer said 75 or more people responded to help.

"The response to this incident typified the neighbor-helping-neighbor spirit on which Ketchikan was built," Kiffer said in his statement. "Good job, Ketchikan!"

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