Horse and owner injured

May 10, 1978
Pacific Crest Trail

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By Kevin Walker

Wind direction was given to pilot Jim Davidson, by Kevin Walker giving Helitac hand signals, as the helicopter descended towards the small clearing that was the helispot. (photo by Jim Fairchild)At approximately 1:00 p.m. Wednesday while I was preparing to start running a job on my press, I heard the familiar sound of my grandfather's voice, summoning either my dad or I to the phone for a rescue mission.

After having several body evacuations from plane crashes, I was very pleased when I heard that we were to investigate an ELT (emergency location transmitter) signal emanating from the Red Tahquitz area in the San Jacinto Mountains.

We were met at the Banning Airport by Capt. Ray Canova of the Banning Sheriff's Office and a Major of the Civil Air Patrol and his T-6. It was decided that Walt and the Major should fly over the area and try and find the wreckage.

After about 30 minutes they returned to the airport, where to our amazement Walt informed us that he had spotted what looked like an orange tent and someone waving to him, but no wreckage was visible. But never the less, at least one survivor.

RMRU members, Jim Hanson, Walt Walker, Kevin Walker (talking to Katie), John Dew (pointing the way) and Jim Garvey, carried the injured young woman up the snow slope. (photo by Jim Fairchild)With that, we immediately asked for a helicopter. After 15 minutes the Capt. informed us that Scott Air Force Base had been notified and we would be getting a Marine chopper within the hour. After an hour and a half we began to wonder if they forgot us or something.

After checking with Scott again we were informed that there were not any choppers available for rescue.

It was now 4:00 p.m. Darkness would soon be a factor in this mission, and to top it off storm clouds were approaching from the north-west. It was decided to call Western Helicopters, in Rialto. We then moved up to Idyllwild where we had a quick dinner and then set up base.

At 5:30 p.m. we were joined by one of Western's new Hughes 500D helicopters. First load in was Jim, Walt and myself. After sneaking under the now present clouds, we started searching. After a few passes in the area, Walt spotted tracks on the PCT and upon following them further we spotted not only one but two people waving, and another in a tent right in the middle of the trail.

The pilot found a small clearing large enough to land in on the ridge above the parties camp. After we were let off the pilot left for more men and equipment. Upon reaching the camp we were met by two men and a young woman in the tent. After questioning them about the ELT, the girl responded back that it was her ELT and she had activated it after she became injured, and was found by two other hikers.

While Walt examined her for injuries we were told what led up to the accident. Kathryn (Katie) Joost was doing the San Jacinto segment of the PCT solo, and on horseback. Tuesday afternoon Katie reached an icy point on the trail. She dismounted and led her horse across the icy spot, and just as she was returning to get her pack animal, it started towards her. As it was crossing the icy patch, it slipped and fell. The animal fell about 100 ft. RMRU member Kevin Walker gave Helitac hand signals to Western Helicopter pilot Jim Davidson so that he Could land safety in the uneven terrain and the failing light. (photo by Jim Fairchild)Upon reaching the animal, Katie found that the horse was severely injured and it would be best to destroy it. Using a 25 caliber pistol, Katie shot the animal. It then fell another 200 ft. Thinking that the horse was now dead, Katie started back up to the trail gathering up her gear. Part of the way up she slipped and fell herself. In the fall Katie injured her right hip, lower back, received a blow to the head, and also had many bruises on her body. She managed to find her sleeping bag before darkness came. Wednesday morning the two hikers also doing the PCT came across the site where the horse fell. They then followed the debris down to where Katie's sleeping bag was. Katie was feeling a little better so they were going to move her back to the trail, when they heard the horse whinnying down below. This time using a 30-30 rifle they went down to shoot it again. Katie said she would take care of the horse. To top it all off, when she shot it, the horse kicked her in the left shin. With this injury, it made it impossible for her to walk. After one of the men finally destroyed the animal, they carried Katie back up to the trail and set up her tent, and put her back into her bag. It was at this point she had them activate her ELT and at that point RMRU fit into the complex picture.

After completing the exam, Walt decided we would need a litter, full leg air splint, and the rescue sleeping bag. Upon the birds return we were joined by fellow team members John Dew, Jim Garvey, and Jim Hanson.

With the needed equipment now on the scene, we moved as fast as possible because of the fast approaching darkness. With Katie now in the rescue sleeping bag, we loaded her into the litter and made our way to the ridge.Jim Davidson piloted the powerful Hughes 500D helicopter out of the small clearing as Walt Walker rode with the injured Katie to the hospital. (photo by Jim Fairchild) Upon the return of the chopper, we loaded the litter into the bird. Walt rode out with Katie to the Palm Springs Hospital.

With the bird's return to the mountain, we quickly loaded gear and two men into the bird. The pilot asked me if there was anywhere close by where he could let us off. I told him Garner Valley was the closest accessible roads. He said fine, because it was now impossible to fly to Idyllwild because of cloud cover. With that it took only three runs to Garner Valley with the bird to get us all out. And at 8:00 p.m. with help from the with Hemet Search and Rescue Team in transporting us back to Hemet and Idyllwild, Mission No. 1978-022 was secured.