Indiana Conservation Officers are investigating a tree stand accident which occurred this morning on the Tri County Fish and Wildlife Area near North Webster.
Clarence “Daven” Gasaway, 15, of Warsaw, was hunting deer when part of his deer stand broke causing him to fall backward and become stuck upside down in the remaining foot platform of his stand.
Gasaway was hunting with a friend, Scott Wharton, and they were in nearby trees 24 feet off the ground and approximately 15 yards apart. Gasaway began to descend when the top portion of his tree stand broke causing him to be thrown backward. Gasaway found himself hanging upside down with his feet and lower legs still attached to the foot platform of the stand.
Gasaway was not wearing a safety restraint harness or fall arrest system of any kind.
A nearby deer hunter saw the commotion and dialed 911. Indiana Conservation Officers Jon Cook and Jon Engle responded to the scene, along with North Webster Fire Department, North Webster EMS and the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department.
Upon arrival, officers observed Gasaway still hanging upside down. He was able to communicate to officers that he had been in this awkward position for approximately a half hour.
Officers Cook and Engle reacted quickly and had Wharton raise a rescue rope through and across his tree stand then to Gasaway, who secured it around his body and under his arms in case the foot platform broke. This would have prevented Gasaway from falling head first 24 feet to the ground.
Fire personnel then arrived and raised a ladder to the tree, which conservation officers secured to the tree with more rope preventing the ladder from falling in the rescue efforts. Firemen were then 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.
Indiana Conservation Officers strongly recommend the use of a safety harness when hunting from an elevated platform of any kind. A safety harness attaches the individual to the tree.
The combined quick response of all parties involved in the rescue likely saved Gasaway from serious injury or even death as hanging upside down for an extended period can cause loss of consciousness and asphyxia if left in this position for too long.
Hunters falling from tree stands is the number one hunting accident nationwide every year and is preventable by wearing a safety harness system. Indiana Conservation Officers want to remind sportsmen that we can be reached 24 hours a day 365 days a year by calling the dispatch center at 812-837-9256.