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Utah, Wasatch Range, North Ridge of Dry Canyon

Utah, Wasatch Range, North Ridge of Dry Canyon. A group of three boys, ages 16, 16, and 13, were hiking on the north ridge of Dry Canyon near Logan. They had ascended the ridge, and Ronald James (16), was standing on a rock when he lost his footing and fell an estimated 50 feet. He sustained fractures of the left arm and collar bone, perhaps the pelvis, and cuts and bruises about the head. His companions carried him to the road, where first aid was administered by the Utah Highway Patrol, and he was sent to a hospital by ambulance, dying a few hours after arrival.

Source: Jurgen R. Meyer-Arendt, M.D.

Analysis by Dr. Meyer-Arendt: This accident is of interest not from the point of what caused the fall, but only how the initial rescue was made. Although the victim did not have a hard hat and although he had multiple cuts and bruises on the head, he never lost consciousness and probably did not die from contusion of the brain or from cerebral hemorrhage. Instead he suffered multiple bone fractures, among them a broken arm, collar bone, and probably a broken pelvis. Still, each of these fractures at first did not seem to him or to his friends to matter much. The victim felt relatively well and did not complain much about pain, even while he was carried down the slope by one or both of his companions. There he was transferred to the ambulance and brought to the hospital. A few hours later, while remaining conscious until his death, he became short of breath and soon thereafter died of a sudden cardiac arrest. Attempts for 30 minutes failed to revive him. These symptoms, together with the history, strongly suggest death from fat embolism caused by the multiple fractures.

The main error committed had been to carry the victim down without using a stretcher or a platform. It seems reasonable to assume that the initial injuries might not have been fatal as such, but that serious complications may have been introduced or at least aggravated by the improper technique of evacuation. This accident emphasizes once more that any suspicion of multiple fractures of the arms or leg or fractures of the pelvis or spine require good immobilization during evacuation.