By Eric Francis
READING – Rescuers from across the area turned out Saturday afternoon to retrieve a Massachusetts man from a remote stretch of the Mount Moses Trail after he crashed while riding an ATV alongside a couple of his friends.
Jason Lizotte, 36, of Barre, Massachusetts suffered impact injuries to his head, shoulder, and chest and was treated overnight at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center before being discharged nearly 24 hours later on Sunday afternoon.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday firefighters from Reading, West Windsor, and Ludlow were called in to assist with different aspects of Lizotte’s rescue.
Reading Fire Captain Mike Wiltshire led the effort, which was staged from a section of Brown Schoolhouse Road up nearly a mile of the trail to the accident scene.
A group of ten rescuers, including two Ludlow firefighters on the tracked vehicle and two medics from Golden Cross Ambulance out of Claremont and some local ATV riders who helped ferry the crews up the trail, made the trek in to where the Massachusetts ATV riders had called in the crash on their cell phones.
“His friends stayed right in the woods with him,” Wiltshire said, noting that having the rough-terrain-capable machine out of Ludlow made the process of extracting Lizotte from the woods go much faster than if crews had to hand carry him out in a metal “stokes basket.”
“He’ll be all right but he had neck, shoulder and arm injuries. He was in the woods long enough that they were more worried about him going into shock,” Captain Wiltshire explained, noting, “He’ll survive it but he had other medical issues too and that’s why the Golden Cross medic decided to airlift him.”
In a serendipitously timed move, Wiltshire called for the DHART medical helicopter, which was a half-an-hour away by air, at 6 p.m. and it touched down beside the Reading Highway Garage on nearby Center Road just as Ludlow’s track machine emerged from the woods and started transferring Lizotte to the Golden Cross Ambulance for the short trip down to meet the chopper.
While crews were still bringing the track machine out, the West Windsor Volunteer Fire Department had been activated and asked to respond to Reading to set up the landing site for DHART.
“I evaluated the situation when I got there and tried to figure out the best way to get the bird in there,” recalled West Windsor Fire Chief Mike Spackman, adding, “It went fine. It really did. We didn’t even have enough time to wet down the area first (to suppress the inevitable dust cloud when the high powered helicopter touches down) but the pilot said that if it got too bad on his way down he would lift back out and then have us wet it down…but he landed in just one shot.”
The highway garage was not one of the pre-designated sites that DHART has established around the region for potential landings but, despite some power lines on one side of the property, Spackman said that the pieces all fell rapidly into place.
“We had plenty of room,” the chief recalled, “It was just a matter of getting everything located and marking it good for them so they could make a safe trip in.”
DHART took off at 7:04 p.m. and landed at DHMC exactly ten minutes later, almost two hours to the minute from the time 911 dispatchers received the initial call from the woods reporting the crash.
This article first appeared in the July 8th print edition of the Vermont Standard.