cog rescue

The rescue team is seen on Mount Washington on Saturday evening from the Cog Railway. (COURTESY SAMANTHA PRESBY)

THOMPSON & MESERVES PURCHASE — At about 6 p.m. last Saturday, a call was received by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department reporting that a hiker on the Jewell Trail had suffered an injury to his back and was not able to continue.

According to Fish and Game's Lt. Mark Ober, the hiker, Michael Couch, 46 of Atlanta, Ind., is an amputee who was attempting to hike to the summit of Mount Washington in order to raise money for his foundation, Lost Limbs Foundation.

Couch had made it to a location near the junction with Jewell Trail and Gulfside Trail when the injury occurred, Ober said, with GPS coordinates placing him 1½ miles from the summit of Mount Washington and approximately 3 miles from the Base Station.

Knowing that a carryout was going to be arduous no matter what route was taken, a call for search-and-rescue volunteers was made, and several members from both the Pemigewassett Valley Search & Rescue and Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue responded.

“Carrying an injured person is far more taxing going uphill than going down, so the plan was to carry Couch down the Jewell Trail,” said Ober.

“However, seeing that the Cog Railway tracks were about a half-mile from the injured hiker, I decided to make a call to inquire about the possibility of mechanical assistance."

At the time, Ober was unaware that the Cog Railway was in the middle of their 150th anniversary gala.

“(Cog owner) Wayne Presby and his staff didn’t hesitate a bit when I called and asked if it was possible to use one of the Cog trains to rescue this hiker,” Ober said.

“Even with all they had going on as part of their 150th anniversary, I briefed them on the situation, and they located an engineer and brakeman, and within an hour, the train was taking up a crew of rescuers,” he said.

“Having the ability to utilize machinery to assist in a search and rescue is a luxury that is almost never available, so when this situation presented itself, we were extremely lucky to have the ability to request assistance from the Cog and have them respond so quickly," Ober said, adding, "I can’t thank them enough for their willingness to help in this situation.”

The train departed the base station at about 7 p.m. and dropped off the rescuers at 7:53 p.m.

The hiker was packaged in the litter and was delivered back to the train by 8:45 p.m. From there, he was brought down on the train to the Base Station arriving at approximately 9:15 p.m., Ober said.

Ultimately, Couch, who was staying in Glen, did not request transportation to a hospital, Ober said. "I think he might have just pulled a muscle," he said.

For more information on Couch and his organization, go to lostlimbsfoundation.org.

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