Fire officials rescue woman from creek at Foothills Park

Multiple agencies, two helicopters assist in the operation

A woman who fell into a creek at Foothills Park was rescued on Saturday morning by Palo Alto and Woodside fire personnel and extracted with the help of two helicopters, according to the Palo Alto Fire Department.

Palo Alto fire officials responded to a call at 10:32 a.m. on June 11 after an adult female had apparently fallen off of Los Trancos Trail in Foothills Park and into the creek below, according to Ryan Stoddard, the acting battalion chief with the Palo Alto Fire Department.

Stoddard said that upon reaching the scene, officials found that the woman had sustained injuries that warranted a transport, but that appeared to be minor. For precaution, the woman was strapped into a board and basket and was pulled out from the creek using a rope rigging system.

Once extracted, a Cal Fire helicopter helped to execute a short haul -- an operation in which a person is picked up without the helicopter landing -- to move the woman to a better location, Stoddard said. From there, the woman was transported by a Cal STAR helicopter to a nearby medical facility.

Stoddard said that an engine, ambulance and battalion chief from the Palo Alto department and one engine from the Woodside Fire Protection District responded to the call. Rangers from Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and Palo Alto Open Space also assisted with the operation.


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4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 13, 2016 at 5:05 am

Yikes. If it's the place I'm thinking about, that's a long slide down into the creek. Fortunate the injuries appeared minor. I prefer hiking Los Trancos Trail counter-clockwise so the sketchier stretch is uphill. Taking it downhill I feel a higher likelihood of slipping. But the spot that might make people the most nervous is the tree with the active beehive. Poison oak has been my only real problem.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2016 at 9:13 am

I agree with the above poster. Some of the trails are very close to steep drops and need widening or diverting because of soil erosion. The paper maps have a key as to which are more difficult trails. I would also like to see better signage at the trailheads stating their difficulty as well as difficulty. Some is these difficult trails should not be hiked alone in my opinion. On many trails cell signals are nil so in an emergency it would be difficult to find a lone hiker. Was this injured person hiking alone? I'm pleased she was found so quickly.

1 person likes this
Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 13, 2016 at 9:40 am

We cannot sanitize all the trails in wilderness areas. Hikers need to use their judgement about their abilities on steep trails. There are so many trails in Foothills Park that you can always turn around and find another way.

The article says that despite the expensive rescue process, this woman's injuries were minor. I hope this doesn't deter her or anyone else from visiting our city parks. You're still at much more risk of being killed by a car on the way to the park than by anything that happens in the park.

6 people like this
Posted by A friend
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 13, 2016 at 10:20 am

The hiker was not hiking alone. Three other friends were with her. Fortunately, another hiker was behind them and rushed down to take her out of the water and provided tremendous amount of help until the rescuer arrived.

The injury turned out to not be minor. Damaged L2, broken ribs, and both feet may need surgery.

Actually another injury occurred in 2014 around the same area. Two helicopter were involved to retrieve that person also. See below

Web Link

I am just wondering how often the city inspects hese trails.

1 person likes this
Posted by hiker
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2016 at 12:58 pm

The Los Trancos trail along the creek needs work. There are multiple narrow sections, some covered in gravel, some undercut or narrowed by the creek. Several of these sections are tens of feet above the creek, and slips or falls could result in serious injury or worse, as we now see.

I routinely hike Foothills Park, the Open Space preserves, Mt. Tam, Wilder Ranch state park, and Henry Coe state park. I would place the creek section of the Los Trancos trail as the riskiest and most uncomfortable to hike, given its condition. I have only hiked it once in the last year, and do not plan to return.

1 person likes this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 13, 2016 at 1:36 pm

I am glad things worked out, and it's nice to know in an emergency the city can respond so quick and effectively.

>> The injury turned out to not be minor. Damaged L2, broken ribs, and both feet may need surgery.

This makes me wonder what the criteria for "minor" injury is, not to mention why report something specific if you do not know?

My understanding is that broken ribs can puncture a lung or lungs and lead to death. And necessary foot surgery can be a permanent or long term rehab issue. Is there an injury level between minor and major?

I normally think of minor as superficial cuts and bruises, get up and walk away, it's only a flesh wound type thing ??

What exactly is the injury spectrum, can someone point to a web page that explains this ?

1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2016 at 2:56 pm

I think it is important to put a degree of difficulty on these trails. Sometimes just turning round is not a good option as it would mean a very long additional hike plus an uphill v downhill makes a difference too. These trails are hiked by young families and seniors. Some are long but fairly easy and some are short but complex in one direction and not the other. A simple code of difficulty on the signs along with distance which is already there would be a simple but useful addition.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 13, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Here's the descripton printed on the map --> "Los Trancos Trail: 7.39 miles, 3–4.5 hours. This is the longest trail in the park. It has scenic views and crosses through several plant communities. Strenuous; steep and rugged terrain, rises 985 ft. Trail bed is packed dirt; obstacles include slide area on the back side. Not appropriate for young children."

Yes, the trail could use some work, as could most of the city of Palo Alto. Too often the solution is simply to close access, like our baylands boardwalk or Lefkowitz tunnel or pedestrian undercrossing of El Camino at the soccer fields. The other modern approach is to commission a multi-million dollar study and kick the can down the road. Erosion in Foothills Park is a fact of life, and it's very expensive to fight Mother Nature, not to mention probability of doing more harm than good. Containment of the creek in Wildhorse Valley has resulted in a very deep gulley that wasn't there when I was a kid.

@Plane, the article was well worded. To the first responders, the injuries "appeared" minor. But experience allowed for more serious less obvious internal injuries, and warranted transport strapped into a board. Textbook operation, kudos to the fire department.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 13, 2016 at 4:33 pm

3-4.5 hours

(I should remember to filter the special characters when I copy-and-paste here.)

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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