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Eagle scout fined for rescue

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A couple of links to earlier articles on the event.






I'm not sure what he did wrong, that would warrant a "fine". The second article provides a perfectly rational decision to continue going up after the sprain. At the summit there is a weather observatory manned year round. There is also a cog railway that goes up there. If he was closer to the summit, continuing up and hithch a ride down seems like a reasonable decision. At least his family and authorities would have known where he was.



My concern is the next time someone is hurt, will they or their family be hesitant to call for assistance, or will they try and mount their own rescue effort?



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This is an interesting and pertinent topic. I was not aware that there was some kind of insurance program through REI. I will certainly look into it.


There is an ongoing search here in the San Francisco Bay Area for a middle aged man who made a habit of hiking solo in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He was well known to the rangers, some of whom commented that he knew the trails better than they did. Disappeared without a trace so far. The authorities have cut back on the resources committed to this search.


Some kind of recovery seems fair when there is clear and obviouis negligence involved. How one defines and measures that is an open question. Clearly we do not want to discourage legitimate calls for help.


Another ongoing controversy in this area is day hikers with cell phones who call for helicopter rescue when they get tired. There ought to be a way to impose some kind of financial penalty for frivolous calls. It wouldn't even have to be full cost recovery to discourage frivolous calls.

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Pikes Peak is a rather famous mountain in my backyard. The road to the summit is owned and operated by the City of Colorado Springs. Barr Trail is a 13 mile hike from the base to the summit. The city just recently implimented a $100 fee for any hiker who requires a ride off the summit. Seems lots of flatlanders climb the mountain, but find themselves too tired to hike back down.





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The NH statute gives the department that receives the "reimbursement" the sole discretion to determine liability (negligence) and the amount to be "reimbursed." There is no provision for appeal. The person ordered to pay the reimbursement has a limited time to pay his/her debt to the State. Absent payment, the debtor loses his/her driver's license and any license required to engage in employment and is subject to court action to collect the debt.

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I have to agree that the NH statute as described is extremely harsh. The maximum potential punishment seems to greatly exceed the harm of the crime. I too shall avoid NH (not that I had any plans to travel 3,000 miles to trek in NH).

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Above thread "Teen Hiker Missing on Mount Washington" referenced the following from Manchester Union Leader, Tue April 28,2009


PINKHAM'S GRANT The search has resumed this morning for the Halifax, Mass., teen who has not been seen since he set out on a 17-mile day hike Saturday over the Presidential Range.


Sunny skies and mild temperatures are on tap, which, officials say are beneficial for Scott Mason's ability to survive, but makes for rough going by search teams, which now have to use rope traverses to get across streams swollen and raging by the snow melt. (Some of these rescuers were injured. Who paid their medical expenses?)


Fish and Game Lt. Bob Bryant said this morning that a lone set of prints, which could belong to Mason, have been found and followed and the search this morning is concentrating in the Great Gulf Wilderness, a vast 5,552-acre area on the east slopes of Mount Washington.


Along with the melting snow, some areas in which search teams are looking have deep soft snow and depending if those spots were wind-loaded over the winter, the snow depths are in excess of 20 feet.


A Vermont National Guard helicopter is expected to join the search this morning. (Ran into high winds, it gets windy there. The highest surface wind speed recorded on Earth was 231 mph at Mt. Washington)


Mild temperatures on the high slopes of Mount Washington worked against searchers yesterday.


More than two dozen searchers spread out across the highest peaks of the Presidential Range yesterday, sweeping ravines and ridge lines for Mason.


"Our biggest concern now is that with the snow melting, the streams are just raging," Gralenski said last evening. "The temperatures are a double-edged sword -- the warm weather is causing the snow to melt, making the brook crossings impassable."


Several teams were waiting other searchers with ropes to set up a technical traverse of the water as the sun was going down.


The search teams, which include Mountain Rescue, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, the Appalachian Mountain Club and the U.S. Forest Service, have to also contend with waist-deep snow in some places.


Mason's father, Mike, said his son attained his Eagle Scout badge about six months ago, undertaking a project that secured 3,000 pounds of food for the Massachusetts food bank. He said that his wife, Jory, had been recovering from recent surgery and that he "took the eye off the ball" as his son was preparing for the hike.


Scott Mason, a junior at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston, Mass., had visited Colby-Sawyer College and stopped to make the Mount Washington hike following that visit.


Scott Mason's planned route would have taken him from Pinkham Notch to the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington and north over the peaks of Mounts Jefferson, Adams and Madison, before returning to the AMC base camp via the Madison Gulf trail the same day.


"That's a very ambitious hike," Gralenski said. "Regardless of his age, it was a lot to bite to bite off. A 17-year-old can only have so much hiking experience."


By early afternoon, teams made up of four searchers each were out on headwall of Tuckerman Ravine, the upper and lower points of the Great Gulf Wilderness and Caps Ridge off Mount Jefferson.


Searchers followed any solo foot prints they came across throughout the afternoon, but the weekend saw some 2,500 people climbing up to Tuckerman Ravine, a popular skiing destination in the spring.


Gralenski said it appeared that Mason was equipped with snowshoes and an ice ax, but that he left his sleeping bag at the base camp.


Mike Mason said he found packaging from a blanket sold at the AMC store, which was encouraging.


"He's been in the woods a fair amount," he said. "I just hope he walks out of the woods. I think he can do it. He knows how to survive, and it appears he has a blanket."


There was no initial air search of the area, Gralenski said.


The New Hampshire Army National Guard, which usually assists with search and rescue missions, was out training in Michigan, he said. The New Hampshire State Police helicopter was grounded for service.


Jory Mason made calls to the office of Massachusetts Gov. Duval Patrick to plead for that state to dispatch a helicopter in the search for her son.


Just before 6 p.m., a helicopter from the Maine Forestry Service flew in for the first look of the area from the air.


( He was found by ground rescuers and taken to Mount Washington Observatory, Home of the World's Worst Weather, where he transported down New England' tallest mountain by snow cat.

More than two dozen highly trained mountain rescuers searching three days some of whom sustained injuries in rope traverses, two out of state helicopters participated in the search, note the Governor of his home state Massachusetts denied his family's request for a Mass State Police copter to join the search. )


shortridge asked "Are you really saying that anything that's not car camping is high adventure?" No I was predicting outsourcing to outfitters for high adventure for reasons of safety, liability coverage, etc., and that scout leaders would continue with car camping. Maybe the distinction will be determined by the new Health Form - if Part B is required along with weight chart compliance for the activity then the activity is high adventure. But this is just my prediction of the future whether I like it or not.(This message has been edited by RememberSchiff)

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Yah, what a tom-fool thing for the state to do, eh?


I hope the lad finds some good representation and PR folks and fights the thing.


The boy walked out on his own. Turns out he didn't need all those resources anyway.


Most of da folks lookin' for him were volunteers, and whether volunteer or professional you don't get to whine about conditions or injuries you cause yourself when undertakin' a rescue. That's why you get paid or why you volunteer. If yeh aren't capable of managing the conditions safely, yeh shouldn't be out.


Rescue services are part of the sharing of risk we agree to with our tax dollars. We pay taxes for police protection for the insurance - we want the police around when we need them, even though we recognize that our dollars are like as not goin' to help our neighbor or the tourist to our state or the drunk bum who gets picked up and taken to the shelter.


At the point our taxes aren't providing those services, we should demand 'em back. It's nothing but theft to reduce services and force taxpayers to keep paying AND then pay for private insurance in addition.


New Hampshire's land managers have long had a reputation for bein' visitor-unfriendly. I'll happily join the boycott.






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Worse than I thought!


He did not need rescue, and was well behind schedule but well in the process of walking out on his own.


He did not call for rescue, and could have made it without the effort, so why is he liable?


If the manned weather station and cog railroad was up it seems far from negligent to choose to continue up instead of down.


As far as injuries to the rescuers, while I bow to no-one in my admiration for the rescue squads, if they, with their training and equipment, choose to do a traverse and sustain injuries, why are they not at fault? It would be one thing if they saw him lying there injured and were trying to get to the victim, but they obviously did not know where he was so they need not have performed a risky maneuver to get into an area ASAP when they had no evidence the victim was there. They could have waited a short time for the dangerous conditions to abate or used another route or a safer method with more equipment/resources.


Come on, if I sprain my leg, splint it and take an extra few days to walk out on a camp-made crutch am I to be presented with a bill for tens of thousands if someone else calls the authorities to mount a rescue?


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How is this for a Conspiracy Theory?


of course the yougn man wouldhave to pay for his rescue, heis facing the consequence of his actions. In the near future, we will be all facing consequences for our actions once national Health care takes hold. Have a heart Attack and you are 20% ( or so ) overweight according to the published height and weight charts? You pay more than if you were 10% overweight.


Smoker for 30 years or more and have Lung Cancer, sorry, palliative treatment only from here out, youknew it was bad for you in the first place


Stroke requiring intesive Physical and Occupational Rehab? Just how do you prove you were on the Nationally approved

Macrobiotic Diet to prevent placque build-up.


Paying for a rescue? Just the start of a journey down a slippery slope, how ironic!

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Situations like this will only litter the backwoods with corpses. Rescues will become recoveries. How many, when injured, knowing now that they face huge fines, will delay or even reject the idea of calling for help in hopes of getting out before big brother is engaged. We now have to make a choice, self rescue or face financial distress.


Very dangerous precedence.

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Eagle Scout fined for Mount Washington rescue

Mon Jul 20, 2009


HALIFAX - New Hampshire Fish and Game is fining Scott Mason for the expense of a four-day and three-night search and rescue operation that ended with his rescue off the side of Mount Washington in April.


Mason, 18, an Eagle Scout, was hiking the tallest mountain in New England in early April when he injured himself and tried to find a shorter route down the mountain. It took volunteers, professionals and a helicopter from the Maine Department of Conservation four days to find him.


According to family and Scout leaders, Mason is an experienced hiker. Joe LaGambina, treasurer of Halifax Scout Troop 39, said he is a skilled outdoorsman, saying in April, This is not something thats foreign to him.


Mason was a troop leader and has merit badges for hiking, camping, wilderness survival and first aid, according to Halifax Scout master Tom Goldrick.


The amount of the fine is $25,238.


Mason had no comment when contacted last Friday regarding the fine.


The decision to issue the fine was based on evidence collected by the New Hampshire Fish and Game law enforcement division. They found Mason was negligent in his actions following his injury, and before the injury by planning a 17-mile hike across four peaks in New Hampshires Presidential Range during the spring thaw.


The department looked at everything associated with Scott Mason and what happened during the totality of the incident, Maj. Timothy Acerno, assistant chief of law enforcement for New Hampshire Fish and Game, said.


The first question that comes to mind for many people is, how can an Eagle Scout be negligent if he survived four days and has experience hiking?


Acerno said that question is answered by the departments findings.


In our opinion he had an aggressive hiking itinerary, Acerno said.


Mason was hiking the Presidential Travers, over mounts Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Adams, a 19-mile group of trails that can take hikers up to four days to complete during the winter. It can be completed in one day by expert hikers.


He wasnt hiking in summer conditions or winter conditions, these spring-like conditions are very different. Theres snow, but you cant walk on top of it like you can in the winter. Even though our rescuers were wearing snowshoes, they were up to armpits sometimes. They found tracks in the snow then lost them on bare ground. The conditions were very difficult, Acerno said.


Mason had crampons, snow shoes and an ice pick with him, but did not bring overnight gear since he was planning a day hike. He discussed his itinerary with a supervisor at the Pinkham Notch Lodge before setting out. His mother, Jory Mason, called the lodge when she did not hear from her son that night.


Acerno said Scott Masons negligence began with his itinerary. After he injured himself, Acerno said Mason made the decision to get off the trail to find a faster way back to the lodge.


He was not staying on the trail, Acerno said. Our volunteers ran the trails of his itinerary but he began bushwhacking and navigating through places he should not have during the spring. He took an undesirable route, crossed streams that are swollen in the spring, and tried to make his way out rather than turning around on the trail and hiking out that way.


We looked at everything and in the departments opinion he was negligent in totality.


The cost of the rescue operation included the cost to the Fish and Game in coordinating the rescue among a variety of organizations, including Mountain Rescue Service, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue and the Appalachian Mountain Club. A Maine Forest Service and Vermont National Guard helicopter conducted aerial searches.


The department asked the state to institute the fines last year as a way to help fund such searches. Searches were funded solely by a fee added to recreational vehicle and boat registrations. The cost of searches has increased over the years and the department needed a way to continue paying for searches. Last June, the state legislature passed a law to allow the department to fine negligent hikers the cost of their rescue. The state conducts approximately 140 searches annually. Fines could be issued in approximately 40 of those operations.


Acerno said fines are normally due within 30 days of notice, or a payment schedule can be negotiated.


If the person fails or refuses to pay, the department may pursue payment by legal action, or a compromise could be reached. If they refuse we could take them to court.


Mason could appeal the fine in the New Hampshire courts, Acerno said.



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Eagle Scout Fights Fine After Rescue

18-Year-Old May Lose Driver's License

POSTED: 5:30 pm EDT July 20, 2009


BOSTON -- An Eagle Scout fined by New Hampshire Fish and Game after he was rescued from the White Mountains is fighting back after he was billed for the search.


"I don't have the option to pay, and I don't feel like I was negligent," Scott Mason said.


Mason, of Halifax, said that he was shocked when he got the letter. He was rescued in April from Mount Washington and is still recovering from nerve damage he suffered to his feet.


"Fish and Game sent me a bill for $25,000. That's been very stressful. I have no way to pay. I'm only 18," Mason said.


The letter said Mason, an Eagle Scout, was negligent by setting out on an aggressive hike and that he must pay in 30 days or lose his Massachusetts driver's license. He said that he would have been made it out fine if the weather hadn't turned.


"I can't control flash flooding," he said. "And if there wasn't flash flooding I would have made it out of there safely."


Mason said the findings are based on an incident report complied from one interview he did moments after he was rescued.


"It's based on one debriefing that was less than an hour when I was tired and injured," he said.


After sending $1,000 to rescuers in appreciation, Mason said he is disappointed New Hampshire Fish and Game did not look at his story closer before sending the bill.


"I just wished they had come to me and talked to me so we could work together," he said.


He said that he plans to fight the charge.


New Hampshire state law allows the Fish and Game Department to charge hikers for a search. The agency said Mason acted negligently and that he was unprepared for the winter hiking conditions.


The case was reviewed by the New Hampshire attorney general's office before the bill was sent.

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