Westminster native aids mountain rescue with Gettysburg College team

Stacey Heaver, of Westminster, a member of Gettysburg College's Gettysburg Recreational Adventure Board (GRAB), recently used her wilderness training and expertise as the unit was called upon to help rescue a woman who fell 80 feet off a cliff at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

Heaver and other GRAB students had spent their spring break at the gorge, participating in a climbing program and learning about high line rescues.

Just days before they were slated to leave, one of the search and rescue volunteers who had worked with them earlier in the week contacted the group to ask for help — a woman had fallen near an area called Indian Staircase.

The students hiked to the cliff with members of the local search and rescue team and paramedics.

After setting up rigging, students were able to rescue the injured woman from the bottom of the cliff where she had been for 15 hours, and transport her two miles through the woods so she could get additional medical treatment.

"We all took turns toting packs and clearing the trail ahead, working on the rope belays, transporting the ... stretcher and spotting those carrying her to keep them on the trail," said Heaver, a 2011 graduate of Westminster High School.

"On the trail, I was most energized by the synergy of the group, and ease with which everyone changed roles when someone needed a break," she said.

"Due to our students' training ... we were well-positioned to be of assistance," said John Regentin, director of experiential education at Gettysburg College.

"This was an opportunity that presented itself, and the students ... jumped to action, and were able to help local authorities rescue someone in need," he said.

Gettysburg officials said that local law enforcement representatives lauded the students' efforts, noting that it was one of the smoothest rescue operations they had ever saw.

Earlier in the week, the GRAB group took a day away from their climbing program to assist a family that was affected by a March 2 tornado that caused damage throughout parts of Kentucky. Students were able to help dismantle a storm damaged house and barn for a family who had lost a member in the tornado.

"The people of Menifee County were inspirational," Heaver said. "Their homes were destroyed and they had lost so much, yet they insisted upon helping us in whatever way they could and still kept a sense of humor."

Heaver is a biology major in the class of 2015 at Gettysburg, and a first-year student in the GRAB program.

She said, "I've enjoyed the opportunity to push myself in ways I had never expected, and learn from the optimism and professionalism of the older staff. I ... can't wait to see what the next few years bring."

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