CONTACTS:
Lt. Jonas Todd Bogardus (603) 744-5470
Jane Vachon (603) 271-3211
March 19, 2003

Lifesaving Medals Awarded to Conservation Officers

CONCORD, N.H. - Two conservation officers from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Samuel Sprague and Brian Abrams, today received Lifesaving Medals from the department in recognition of the remarkable endurance and professionalism they demonstrated during the successful rescue of Michael Lynn on the Carrigain Notch Trail in Crawford Notch on February 13 and 14 of this year.

"This search was a true success thanks to the exemplary actions and professionalism of Officers Sprague and Abrams," said Major Jeffrey Gray. "These officers are real heroes. Without their extraordinary efforts, Mr. Lynn would not be alive today."

Sprague and Abrams were part of a specially trained search team sent in after Michael Lynn did not return from a planned hiking/snowshoeing/cross-country ski trip through the Pemigewasset Wilderness with his husky dog "Cayla." On February 12, Lynn had started out from the Nancy Pond Trail on Route 302, planning to complete a 15-mile loop. He lost his way on the trail around Norcross Pond. He did find his way back to the Carrigain Notch Trail, but eventually ran out of steam and couldn't go further. Slumped on his pack against a tree, he sat with his dog through the night and all the following day, exposed for more than 24 hours to bitterly cold temperatures and high winds.

On February 13, Fish and Game search and rescue teams headed out in search of the overdue hiker. One of the teams, Sprague and Abrams, set out from the Nancy Pond Trailhead. It was daylight when the teams began the search, but darkness fell and they still had not found the missing man. Sprague and Abrams pushed on through the darkness and cold. Communications were hampered because radio batteries were getting low and transmissions were limited because a fire had damaged the communications building atop Mount Washington. At 9:30 p.m., the search team lost all radio communication after Sprague fell into an area of deep snow. The team continued to battle their way through the snow, at times chest deep, at the same time coping with temperatures reaching 30 degrees below zero. The extreme temperatures affected the operation of their radio and GPS equipment, but the two did not turn back.

Sprague and Abrams valiantly kept up their search through the night. Eventually, they came upon the exhausted hiker. Suffering from hypothermia and severe frostbite to his feet, Lynn could not walk. The search team needed help to transport him, but the radio was still out. Sprague and Abrams did what they could to keep Lynn alive through the night. They built a fire and gave him warm drinks, food and extra clothing.

At 8 a.m. the following morning, a crackly radio transmission went through. The team would need an airlift out of their location eight miles into the backcountry. Later that morning, a National Guard helicopter swooped in to fly the hiker to Laconia Airport, where Lynn was put into an ambulance and taken to Lakes Region General Hospital. The helicopter then returned for the search team and Lynn's dog, culminating a successful search effort for N.H. Fish and Game.

"Sprague and Abrams braved deep snow, extreme cold and high winds, overcoming their own exhaustion to persist in a difficult search in the backcountry-an effort that saved Michael Lynn's life," said Gray. "The Fish and Game Department is very proud of these officers and the extraordinary dedication they bring to their work."

While Lynn's saga had a successful outcome, Gray cautioned that his experience is a grim reminder that hikers, snowshoers and skiers need to be extremely well prepared when venturing into the backcountry. Always remember these key safety guidelines:

  • Know your limits.
  • Check a weather forecast before heading out.
  • Do not hike or ski alone. Never separate from your group.
  • Let someone know your route and expected return time.

Lynn wisely left an itinerary of his planned route with his innkeepers. Had he not done so, he would most likely not have survived the ordeal, according to Gray. Click here for safe-hiking guidelines and resources.

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