Nighttime ordeal for hikers, rescuers

Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate

Blind man and his companion who fell finally found on trail

Local emergency response volunteers took an unscheduled night hike this weekend as they searched for a blind man and his companion, a woman who had fallen and hurt her back.

A call was broadcast by the sheriff's dispatch around 9 p.m. to the Del Norte Search and Rescue team and firefighters with the Crescent Fire Protection District to respond to a woman who had fallen about 30 feet down a drainage off Damnation Creek Trail, said SAR Assistant Coordinator Peggy Thomas.

The call came from a blind man who was hiking with the woman, Thomas said.

"He walked back far enough for cell service to get help," said Thomas.

Crew members were sent down the trail's 1,000-foot descent to the ocean, but found no one in the darkness, Thomas said. They turned around and climbed back up to where the trail is intersected by the Coastal Trail, Thomas said. One group then headed south and another north.

The team that went north eventually found, Mark Baxter, 44, of Brookings, his guide dog, and Amy Merrill, of Brookings, and her dog, after about three more miles of hiking, Thomas said.

Merrill was stuck in a rockbed just off the trail and was immobile with an injured back, Thomas said.

By the rescue workers reached the pair, it was about 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

A lock on a gate to the Coastal Trail off U.S. Highway 101 was cut, allowing for Search and Rescue and Fire Department trucks to drive to the scene and take Merrill out of the forest, Thomas said.

Baxter was led out with his guide dog and escortedby another SAR volunteer, Thomas said.

He was eventually drivenhome to Brookings by National Park Ranger Brett Silver. Merrill's vehicle was towed.

Merrill was transported to Sutter Coast Hospital, Thomas said. A hospital spokesperson could not be reached Monday for an update on Merrill.

Reach Anthony Skeens at askeens@triplicate.com .

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The Del Norte Triplicate
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Tuesday September 27, 2016

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