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Liftoff: WNF unveils helicopter landing sites

When people are injured on all-terrain vehicle trails, it is often difficult for authorities to offer the proper help in time.

Now, riders in the Wayne National Forest can breathe a little easier with 10 new helicopter landing sites now available for emergency forest rescues.

Should tragedy strike, riders can call the phone number that is posted at all of the 10 landing areas. Signs also display a landing site number, latitude and longitude.

The sites should help to get patients in to surgery quicker, said Clinton Burley, manager of the HealthNet program at Cabell Huntington Hospital, who worked on the sites with the WNF, SEOEMS and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

"These incidents happen in such a remote area that it takes a long time to get those patients from out in those trails back to a main road where the helicopter could land," Burley said.

"Three years ago we began to develop a series of sites, out actually on the trail system, so we could land near where the patient is and minimize their transport time to the trauma center."

The goal is to get patients into the hospital within the "golden hour," the critical 60 minutes after an injury.

"Trauma is a disease of time," Burley said. "And it's proven time after time that if we get somebody from the time of the accident to the trauma surgeon in less than an hour, that person's chances of survival are increased."

Gloria Chrismer, Ironton district Ranger, is doing her part to help keep accidents from happening, but when problems occur, she said she is glad to know HealthNet has her back.

"We're working to make the trails safer too, as far as maintenance and improving the conditions out there," Chrismer said, before pointing to the helicopter a few feet away. "This is our HealthNet, this is what takes care of us in the event that there is a serious accident. This puts the helicopter a whole lot closer."

Burley and the rangers have teamed with SEOEMS and local township fire departments to help get patients to the helicopter site when a call goes out.

Patients who are picked up at the forest landing sites will be transported to Cabell Huntington Hospital.