State police commend trio in rescue of injured hunter in Brush Valley Township
A Johnstown hunter seriously injured in a fall in Brush Valley Township has lived to hunt another day thanks in large part to the actions of a lifelong friend, a fellow sportsman and a state trooper.
Captain William Young, commanding officer of state police Troop A, recently presented letters of commendation to Alex Goodman of Johnstown, Scott McCully of Brush Valley Township and Trooper James Fry of the state police barracks in Indiana — recognizing them for the assistance they provided to hunter James Yoder, also of Johnstown.
“Your decisive actions most likely saved Mr. Yoder from further injury or even death,” Young told the honored trio during a ceremony at the Indiana barracks.
On Nov. 10, as dusk was descending on a wooded area off Old Mission Road in Brush Valley Township, Yoder, 63, fell while attempting to climb down from his tree stand, Young said.
Because Yoder's feet were still strapped in, both of his ankles were broken in the fall and he ended up dangling upside down by the injured limbs, according to a state police account.
Goodman, also 63, had accompanied Yoder on the hunting trip and said he was about 50 yards away when he heard his friend cry out and responded. Goodman's attempts to free his friend were unsuccessful, so he climbed the tree and held onto Yoder to take some of the weight off the injured man's broken bones.
“A bungee cord was the only thing holding me in the tree stand,” said Yoder, who has now recovered from his injuries. “It was pitch dark, too. We didn't have any flashlights.
“If I'd have had a knife, I'd have cut the bungee cord and I'd have fell. That's how bad it hurt.”
“I'm just grateful my friend was there,” he added, estimating the pair were about a quarter mile from the road.
Goodman said he used his separate stand to secure himself in the tree near Yoder but was unable to gain enough leverage to push Yoder back up into his own stand.
“We tried and tried,” Goodman said. “I climbed the opposite side of the tree and tried to pull him up with a little bit of a rope, but I guess the only thing I did that was right was I got him into a neutral position so the blood wasn't all running to his head.”
Since there was no cell phone service in the area, the two men shouted for help, hoping someone would hear them.
That someone was McCully, who heard the faint yells as he was returning to his nearby home. Once he realized the significance of the cries, he called 911 to request help and provided a general description of the location.
“I just returned from hunting and started to go in the house and heard what I thought were voices coming from the woods,” McCully recalled. “I really didn't think anything of it at first. I went in and started to get undressed from hunting. Then I said to my wife, ‘Something didn't sound right.' So I went back out and listened.
“I just thank God I heard them.”
Police noted Fry responded to the McCully residence and summoned the Brush Valley Fire Department to help search for and rescue those calling out for help. An ambulance also was dispatched.
“It was in there far enough that I couldn't hear what they were saying when they hollered,” Fry said. “So we didn't know what the actual emergency was. I assumed it was a medical emergency.”
Police indicated the search continued for about 90 minutes, until the hunters were located and Yoder was safely freed from the tree.
“They said the whole incident could have lasted about two hours,” Goodman said. “I was at the point where I didn't really know what to do anymore when I heard people yelling back. Once I heard people coming, I used the flash from my cell phone to give them direction.
“With the grace of God and the people from the fire company and the police, we saved my friend.”
“I believe that without Mr. Goodman's and Mr. McCully's quick and unselfish actions and Trooper Fry's command and direction, the search efforts would not have been successfully completed,” Young said of the incident.
McCully noted he is a member of the Brush Valley Fire Department and had served as a rescue captain with the company for two years before other activities — including duties as a PIAA football official — allowed insufficient time to continue in the role.
McCully said he accompanied an IRP (immediate response personnel) member of the local ambulance service to help in the search for the hunters.
“As we got in there, Mr. Goodman was saying they needed a ladder,” McCully said.
With a ladder about 20 feet in length, fire department rescuers were able to reach the bottom of the tree stand and free Yoder, McCully said. He noted the injured hunter was placed on a backboard to safely transport him from the site.
“The fire company had everything they needed — ladders and rope. They did all the hard work,” Fry said.
“They did a great job,” Yoder agreed.
During his recuperation, Yoder “had two casts on for about six weeks and then a soft cast,” he said.
Yoder said he intends to go hunting again but will leave the tree stand at home: “I'm probably going to stay on the ground.”
While his friend was the one in dire straits, the hunting incident also caused stress for Goodman.
“I couldn't even drive for an hour afterward because of my blood pressure and my heart rate,” he said. “The paramedics made me stay there.
“What a sigh of relief when it was over.”
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.