Woman airlifted after falling 20 feet while hiking

  • A Massachusetts woman suffered serious injuries after a 20-foot fall while hiking on Mount Monadnock on Sunday night. Courtesy photo

  • A Massachusetts woman suffered serious injuries after a 20-foot fall while hiking on Mount Monadnock on Sunday night. Courtesy photos—

  • A Massachusetts woman suffered serious injuries after a 20-foot fall while hiking on Mount Monadnock on Sunday night. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/5/2021 3:54:46 PM

A lost hiker fell 20 feet from a ledge and was seriously injured after becoming disoriented in  the dark on Mount Monadnock Sunday night.

Jennifer Publicover, 40, of Winchendon, Massachusetts, started hiking on the White Arrow Trail at Monadnock State Park at around 6 p.m. on Sunday, Lt. William Boudreau of New Hampshire Fish and Game said. As darkness fell, she turned around short of the summit and attempted to return to the base.

She had only the flashlight on her phone as a light source, and did not reach the bottom before darkness fell. Publicover called for help, and was speaking with Boudreau, but her cell phone died within a minute of the call.

911 dispatchers were able to provide GPS coordinates for Publicover, and Fish and Game Conservation Officers responded, expecting to find a hiker on the trail in need of an escort and a light source.

However, after her phone died, Publicover, unsure whether responders knew her location, attempted to continue down the mountain herself; shortly after she began her descent, she fell 20 feet from a ledge, landing on the rocks below. She suffered serious injuries to the right side of her body in the fall.

Boudreau said if he had been able to stay on the line with Publicover more than a few seconds, he would have told her the best thing to do was remain where she was and wait for assistance.

“Especially without a light, she should have just stayed put,” Boudreau said. “I didn’t have time to tell her that. Her phone died less than a minute on the phone with me. Before I could tell her to stay put and that we were coming, I lost her. She was trying to get closer to the bottom, to rescuers.”

Publicover was found approximately half a mile up the mountain from the end of the Old Toll Road in Jaffrey. She called for help at about 8:25 p.m., and Conservation Officers were able to start their search for her at about 9:20 p.m., and located her at about 10 p.m.

Boudreau said initially, two Conservation Officers responded, not expecting a hiker in need of serious medical attention. The GPS coordinates were accurate, Boudreau said, and when rescuers got in the area, they could hear Publicover calling for help from where she had landed on the rock ledge.

A call was put out for more assistance, and firefighters from Jaffrey and Peterborough, as well as the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Mountain Patrol Rangers and volunteers with the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team responded to provide medical attention and carry Publicover in a litter to a waiting vehicle on Old Toll Road in Jaffrey.

Publicover had landed on a ledge, and rescue crews had to belay her down a further 10 or 15 feet to the bottom of the ledge, Boudreau said.

“Based on the height she fell, she’s lucky she’s alive, honestly. Twenty feet is a long way to fall onto rocks,” Boudreau said.

Publicover was taken by pickup truck down the Old Toll Road, where she was eventually transferred to a waiting Jaffrey-Rindge Memorial Ambulance, which took her to Silver Ranch Airpark, where she was taken by UMass Memorial LifeFlight to UMass Memorial Medical Center in the early hours of Monday morning.

“It could have been a lot worse. She’s lucky the injuries weren’t worse, and she’s lucky we were able to get the coordinates that led right to her. That’s not always the case, especially when cell service is spotty, which it can be over there,” Boudreau said. “People assume that works all the time. She’s very lucky she was able to get out that call on her phone, otherwise, she would have spent the night out there with temperatures predicted in the mid-30s.”

Boudreau said the best rule of thumb when hiking is to be over-prepared.

“You need to prepare for the unexpected. People think they’re going to the top and back down. It’s still cold, there’s still ice up there, people need to prepare for early spring conditions and prepare for the unexpected. You need to have the gear to make it through the night if you have to,” Boudreau said.

Boudreau said Publicover started her hike around 6 p.m., which was too late to attempt a summit hike at this time of year, and was underdressed and did not have food, water, or hiking materials such as a compass or map with her when she began her hike. Hikers are encouraged to hike with a partner or in a group, and carry the necessary equipment.

For more information about hiking safety, visit www.hikesafe.com for a list of recommended hiking equipment.


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