Case Studies - Smalls Falls Incident

The Incident

A 58 year old male was driving an oxygen delivery van southbound on Route 4 in Rangeley, Maine. The man swerved to avoid collision with a deer, and hit and broke a utility pole. His vehicle then went over the guardrail and launched over the river just above the popular Smalls Falls waterfall site. The van initially impacted the opposite rock face (south) of a narrow ravine and then fell backwards, tailgate first, into the gorge.

The Response

The Farmington police chief and Jay police chief were returning from a meeting in Rangeley came across the accident and called it in. By the time the Maine Association for Search and Rescue (MASAR) arrived, the local garage had secured a winch cable to the vehicle to ensure it was stable and secure. It did not appear to move at all during the operation. Conditions on the rocks were quite icy and slippery.

The driver of the oxygen truck was conscious and able to communicate with rescuers as they worked with extrication tools to methodically clear the way inside the vehicle for him to climb out with assistance. Once out of the vehicle, he was loaded into a belayed litter and carried to the Northstar rig where he was transported to the Phillips airport where Lifeflight was waiting for further transport.

After the driver cleared the scene, MASAR worked with the local fire department to safely break down the rigging, leaving some in place for the wreckers, who were tasked with removing the van from the gorge.

The search and rescue teams actively worked the scene for approximately 3 hours to address the situation.


How Could FirstNet Help?

FirstNet could have assisted in the initial dispatch of the MASAR rope rescue team. It could also have helped with getting the correct types of rescue gear brought to the scene rather than instituting the current standard procedure which is to bring everything. Furthermore, communication between MASAR team members could have been substantially improved through FirstNet's network which, in turn, would increase overall efficiency and cut down on response time.