Utah trail runner recalls 150-foot fall

MURRAY — Jeremy Achter did “everything right” to get ready for a two-day trail running trip with a friend in Little Cottonwood Canyon last fall.

When he fell an estimated 150 feet down the mountain, that preparedness helped him survive, according to one of the Life Flight paramedics who helped save him.

“He had proper gear, he contacted his family members, and he also had the electronic devices to notify the authorities when something went wrong,” said Rick Black, paramedic team lead for Intermountain Life Flight.

Black said first responders were able to “immediately” get Achter’s GPS coordinates after his running partner called 911.

“We launched to that area. My partner and I felt very confident that because of the height of this fall, the terrain that he was in, that this would most likely be a body recovery. But as we flew over the scene and we found this victim, we noticed his hand was moving,” Black said.

The runner had a “multitude” of injuries, some life-threatening. Within just over an hour, the rescue helicopter delivered him to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.

Intermountain Healthcare, Utah’s largest hospital system, has seen a 9% increase in trauma-related accidents this year compared to last year, largely credited to more people getting outside after more than a year of the pandemic. Doctors met Tuesday with survivors of traumatic accidents to encourage residents to take precautions for their upcoming Memorial Day and summer adventures.

“Traumas can happen anytime, anywhere and any place,” according to Dr. David Hasleton, Intermountain Healthcare senior medical director of emergency medicine and trauma operations.

Despite suffering a concussion, multiple bone fractures, broken ribs, a punctured lung, collapsed lungs, hypothermia and various other injuries, Achter stood about seven months later with no visible injuries in front of a Life Flight helicopter at the hospital where he received treatment. He continues recovering, he said.

“I’m back to trail running, back to mountain biking, and even went skiing a few times this winter,” said Achter, 46.

He urged those who plan to go on any extended adventure to let others know what their plans are, and to consider carrying a GPS tracker.

Jason Kitchen, 35, also feels said he feels lucky to be alive after a recent accident. Last month, he was biking with his family in southern Utah when he hit a small jump and went over his handlebars.

An off-duty police dispatcher in the area at the time applied pressure to a cut on Kitchen’s thigh until medical help could get there.

“After surgery is when I really learned how lucky I was to, one, have a life, and two, to actually have a leg,” Kitchen said.

He held the helmet he wore at the time, as well as the shoes that still had blood on them from the bike crash.

“I always tell people to wear their safety gear. … And I’ve seen how helmets can save lives,” he said.

Kitchen says a few of his friends have told him they now want to carry a tourniquet while mountain biking “which I think is a great idea for treating injuries similar to mine.”

Jessica Strong, community health manager at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, reminded parents to make sure their kids wear seat belts and booster seats when traveling to their Memorial Day destinations. Parents and children should always wear helmets when riding off-road vehicles or biking and life jackets when swimming. Even for children who know how to swim, at least one adult should supervise at all times when kids are in the water, Strong said.

She also urged families to remember to bring supplies like sunscreen and water when planning to recreate outdoors.

Utah has the highest rate of traumatic brain injuries in children, largely due to the use of off-road vehicles, Strong said. Parents should make sure their kids’ helmets fit properly, with a two-finger width between their eyebrows and the top of their helmet. The straps should make a V over the child’s ears, and one finger should fit under the child’s chin. The helmet shouldn’t be able to move from side to side or front to back, according to Strong.

Helmets also carry expiration dates, according to Intermountain Healthcare, and only last between two and five seasons. After one impact, they’re no longer useful.

“Replacing a helmet can add up, but it’s cheaper than a trip to the emergency department,” Hasleton said in a statement.

credit ksl

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