Saratoga County

Police, firefighters rescue man from snowy Saratoga Springs woods after 911 calls; Became nearly unresponsive

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Categories: News, Saratoga County

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Multiple Saratoga Springs police officers rescued a man lost in woods late Friday night, trekking through three feet of snow to find the man and get him to safety, police said Tuesday.

The rescued man was ultimately treated and released from Saratoga Hospital, but the cold and snow led him to be nearly unresponsive to dispatchers as officers and firefighters searched for him, police said.

“Each first responder working that night played a crucial role in saving the caller’s life,” police said in a release.

The incident began Friday night at about 10:30 p.m. as police dispatchers received a 911 hang up call from the area of Columbia Avenue, police said. Dispatchers heard no voice on the other end of the line.

An officer responded the area, spoke with people there and knocked on doors, but found nothing, police said.

Then, at about 11 p.m., dispatchers received another 911 call from the area. Dispatcher Renee Johnson spoke with the caller who said he had crashed his car in a snowbank somewhere near Columbia Avenue and was lost in the woods and cold, police said.

The dispatcher then transferred the call to her partner Justin Siskavich as she dispatched the fire department. Police had already been sent.

State Park Police officers Kearney and Lurie, who had been monitoring city police frequencies, conducted their own search for the man’s vehicle and found it on East West Road in Saratoga Spa State Park, police said. The park police officers’ first names were not immediately available.

The two park police officers and five city officers then set up a perimeter between Driscoll Road and Columbia Avenue and city officer Stephanie Berbrick soon spotted footprints in the rear of a Columbia Avenue home. She checked the rear of the homes due to information dispatchers had received from the callers, police said.

By then, police said, the caller “was becoming more disoriented and less responsive to communication.”

“Without hesitation, Officer Berbrick and her partner Officer (Bill) McDonough entered the woods in three feet of snow to locate the caller,” police wrote.

By then, the air temperature was about minus 2 degrees, police said. 

Firefighters arrived about that time and accompanied them into the woods. “From this moment on, the caller would vary between responsive to unresponsive,” police wrote.

The group trekked for almost 40 minutes through nearly a half mile of snow when McDonough and Berbrick finally found the caller near a creek. They found him barefoot and wearing shorts and a sweatshirt. The release did not address why the man left his car or was dressed the way officers found him.

Firefighters began giving the caller as much help as possible and firefighter Chris Stewart removed his coat and laid it over the caller, police said. But the creek blocked access to the closest exit.

Responders then placed the caller on a stretcher. Firefighters, however, struggled at first through the snow. Officers Joe Hughes, Caleb Bentley and Investigator Chris Callahan, who had participated in the search from the start, then entered the woods from Columbia Avenue and began walking towards the group, using their bodies to clear a path for firefighters to carry the caller out, police said.

The process took an additional 40 minutes to get the caller out and it is believed the caller was in the woods for more than two hours total.

A Saratoga Springs officer and park police officer both received treatment for cold exposure and were released. 

Police also identified the firefighters on scene as Jeff Alonzo, Matt Avila, James Bodnar, Andrew Tourtellot, Tim Thomas, Pete Frolish, Luke Perry, Stewart, John Marra and Brendan Thornton.

Police also thanked the Round Lake Fire Department, Malta-Stillwater EMS and the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance.

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