Indiana Conservation Officers investigated a tree stand accident that occurred on Nov. 24 at 10:45 a.m., on the Tri County Fish and Wildlife Area in Kosciusko County.
Fifteen-year-old Clarence “Daven” Gasaway of Warsaw was hunting deer when part of his deer stand broke, causing him to fall backwards and become stuck upside down. Gasaway was hunting from a tree stand and was accompanied by a friend, Scott Wharton. The two hunters were 24 feet off the ground in separate trees about 15 yards apart.
Gasaway began to descend when the top portion of his climber tree stand broke, causing him to be thrown backwards. He found himself hanging upside down with his feet and lower legs still attached to the foot platform of the stand. He was not wearing a safety restraint harness or fall arrest system of any kind.
A nearby deer hunter saw the commotion and dialed 911. Conservation officers Jon Cook and Jon Engle responded to the scene, along with North Webster Fire and EMS and the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department. Upon arrival officers observed Gasaway still hanging upside down.
He was able to inform officers he had been in that awkward position for approximately 30 minutes. Wharton had, by this time, climbed down from his tree and climbed up the tree Gasaway was in and positioned himself just to the side of Gasaway.
Cook and Engle reacted quickly and had Wharton raise a rescue rope through and across his stand, then to Gasaway, who secured it around his body and under his arms in case the foot platform broke. Attaching the rope to him would prevent Gasaway from falling head first 24 feet to the ground.
Fire personnel arrived and raised a ladder to the tree, which conservation officers secured with more rope, preventing the ladder from falling in the rescue efforts. Firemen were able to slowly lower Gasaway feet first to the ladder and then to the ground, where an ambulance was waiting to transport him to Kosciusko County Hospital.
Gasaway was treated for a lower left leg and ankle sprain and released.
Officers strongly recommend when hunting from an elevated platform of any kind, hunters wear safety harnesses, attaching them to the tree when climbing up and down the tree and while seated in the tree stand.
The combined quick response of all parties involved in the rescue likely saved Gasaway from serious injury or even death. Just hanging upside down for an extended period can cause loss of consciousness and asphyxia if an individual is left in the position for too long.
“Hunter falling from tree stand” is the No. 1 hunting accident nationwide every year, and the overwhelming majority of the accidents would be prevented by wearing a safety harness system. Officers want to remind sportsmen they can be reached 24/7 year-round by calling the Conservation Officer Dispatch Center at 812-837-9256.
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