Just before noon on Thursday, September 4, Grand Teton National Park rangers and park paramedics responded to a boat accident with an unresponsive kayaker on the Snake River, about 3/4 of a mile downstream of the Pacific Creek landing.
Gerald Skinner, 80, of Brentwood, Tennessee was kayaking with his son near the confluence of the Buffalo Fork River when he apparently overturned his boat and lost consciousness.
Skinner’s son made a 911 call for help and park rangers responded to the scene by foot and by boat, according to a statement released by the park’s public affairs office.
Within a couple of minutes of the boating accident, a private fishing party of two EMT firefighters from Colorado happened to float by and they stopped to assist. The two EMTs began to provide emergency medical care to Skinner. They also delivered updates to the Teton Interagency dispatcher while rangers were en-route.
The first park ranger arrived on scene at 12:10 p.m., after traveling by vehicle from the Buffalo Fork Ranger Station and then walking to the river bank location. An additional park ranger and two park paramedics also launched from Pacific Creek landing via boat and they arrived at 12:12 p.m.
Rangers transferred Skinner—who was breathing, but still unresponsive—to a sandbar in the middle of the river where a Teton Interagency contract helicopter was able to land. The helicopter made a quick flight with Skinner and the two park paramedics aboard from the river island to a nearby ball field at the Moran School.
Skinner was transferred into a waiting park ambulance. Emergency care continued in the ambulance until Classic Air Ambulance, a life-flight service out of Riverton, was able to arrive and provide transport to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.
An investigation into what caused the boating accident is still underway. Both boaters were wearing life vests at the time of the incident.