Lieutenant Mark Ober
March 23, 2020
Thompson & Meserve’s Purchase, NH – Sunday at approximately 4:00 p.m., Fish and Game Conservation Officers were notified of an injured hiker alongside the Cog Railway on the west side of Mt. Washington, approximately 2 miles up from the Cog Railway Base Station.
The initial call came in via 911 reporting that a 35-year-old female had fallen while descending along the railroad tracks and suffered unknown injuries. The hiker, identified as Ashley Furness, 35, of Bartlett, NH, had been hiking with another companion when the accident occurred. Furness and her companion had been descending alongside the railway tracks when she slipped and fell approximately 200 feet towards Burt Ravine, striking several rocks. It was these rocks that ultimately saved her from plunging into the ravine, a fall that would have likely proven fatal. Her companion was able to descend to her position, place a call for help, and keep her warm with a space blanket until rescuers arrived.
A rescue effort was initiated and personnel from Twin Mountain Fire & EMS along with several Conservation Officers responded to the call. Twin Mountain utilized their tracked rescue all-terrain vehicle (ATV) to maneuver up along the tracks and made it as far as Jacobs Ladder. Conservation Officers utilized snowmobiles to get as close as they could to the victim, but due to the lack of snow and bare spots were not able to get very far before they had to stop and hike the rest of the way up.
The rescue crew arrived at the patient at approximately 7:40 p.m. After an initial assessment conducted by a Conservation Officer EMT, it was determined that Furness had suffered severe injuries and would not be able to walk.
Due to the steep, icy terrain, remote location, and overall conditions, Fish and Game contacted the Cog Railway about the possibility of utilizing one of their trains to expedite the extraction of the patient. Cog Railway personnel agreed to help and called in employees to get a train ready.
In the meantime, a rescue belay was set up with ropes, a litter, and other essential gear that was utilized to safely get Furness from the precarious position on the side of the ravine up to the tracks.
Rescuers were able to hoist her up to a location next to the train tracks. The train departed from
the base at approximately 9:30 p.m. and arrived at the patient at 10:15 p.m.
Furness was placed in the train and relayed down the tracks to the awaiting ambulance at the Base Station arriving at approximately 11:00 p.m. From there she was transported by the Twin Mountain ambulance to Littleton Regional Hospital for treatment of her injuries.
I can’t thank Wayne Presby and his Cog Railway staff enough for assisting in this life saving rescue,” said Fish and Game Region One Lieutenant Mark Ober. “Without the use of the train, we were looking at a potentially all night rescue scenario which would have included calling in several dozen additional rescuers and technical rope teams just to get the injured hiker down the mountain safely. The temperature was in the teens and the wind was starting to blow which made it feel even colder. I don’t like utilizing private businesses, if I don’t have to, but this was an instance where it can’t be overstated that time was of the essence and I felt like the best option was to call the Cog and see if they could help. As they have always done in the past, they did not disappoint and were there when we needed them.”