23 Aug 2014
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Hikers in "Good Condition" After Fall From Beseck Mountain

Conner Mullen and Linda Klapatch of Wethersfield are recovering at Hartford Hospital after falling off a cliff while hiking in Middlefield last week.

Hikers in "Good Condition" After Fall From Beseck Mountain

 

Two hikers while traversing Beseck Mountain in Middlefield were listed in good condition Wednesday, according to a spokesperson at Hartford Hospital.

Conner Mullen, 28, and Linda Klapatch, 25 of Wethersfield, were hiking the Mattabesset Trail along the traprock ridge around 7:30 p.m. on May 11, when each lost their footing and fell off the side of the mountain, according to officials.

While details of the accident and the hiker's injuries remain unclear, Patch has learned that nearly 50 emergency personnel were involved in the pair's rescue, a grueling effort that lasted six-and-a-half hours.

Middlefield Fire Chief Pete Tyc, who served as incident commander on scene of the rescue effort, said firefighters received the first call around 10:20 p.m., an hour after state police were called to investigate cries for help in the area and nearly three hours after officials believe Mullen and Klapatch fell.

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At 11:28 p.m., a member of Middletown's technical rescue team reached Klapatch who had fallen onto a two-foot outcrop. While firefighters secured Klapatch to bring her back to the top of the mountain, a state police helicopter equipped with a spotlight arrived to aid in the search for Mullen.

Mullen was spotted at 12:30 a.m. "He was probably 200 feet away," Tyc said.

By 1 a.m., Klapatch had been pulled to the top of the mountain and was immediately rushed to a Life Star helicopter on standby at Perrotti's Country Barn.

While Klapatch was concious and able to talk to the firefighters who found her, Mullen was in and out of consciousness, a sign he was suffering from shock according to Tyc. 

At 3:40 a.m., a team of five firefighters managed to bring Mullen back to the top of the mountain where he was taken away and eventually transported by a second Life Star helicopter.

"I don't know if hypothermia set in, but they were both cold because they had shorts on," said Tyc.

Breathtaking Views, Hidden Danger

Local firefighters have become all too familiar with the Metacomet Ridge — a scenic formation known for its breathtaking views of Central Connecticut — in recent years.

In September, two local women after falling about 50 feet. Two years ago this month, Michael Beaudry of Meriden was killed after falling from the top of the mountain near Kickapoo Road.

"Common sense would tell you not to get close to the edge," said Middlefield First Selectman Jon Brayshaw, who spent several hours at the scene of last week's rescue.

Following Beaudry's death in 2010, Brayshaw worked with the victim's mother to install more signs at the top of the mountain which alert visitors of the danger.

But Brayshaw and Tyc both admit, despite the signs, the views offered by the perilous cliffs draw people close to edge.

"It's beautiful. You'd have to pay for a view like that," said Tyc. "On a clear day you can see forever, to New Haven Harbor. But on the other hand, it's a very dangerous spot, the rocks are loose the cliffs are sheer."

Despite all of the equipment and training, firefighters face serious danger when rescuing someone who has fallen, Tyc said.

"10:30 at night is even more difficult because people have worked all day, they've been up all day. The chance of error is huge," he said. "It would be so easy to twist an ankle, break a wrist or fall, especially at night. You just can't stress the safety enough."

Following last week's rescue, Tyc said the department will coordinante with Middletown and Meriden fire departments to determine what improvements can be made.

"We have to plan for them," he said.

Claire Cain, who serves as Trail Stewarship Director for the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, which oversees the blue-blazed trail system along Beseck and Higby mountains, said CFPA plans to meet with town and emergency officials soon to discuss possible improved safety measures.

"With the hikers, we can try to do more with trail heads," Cain said. "We try to get that information to people before they start hiking so they know and can make a judgement at the trail head about safety and thinking about the risks associated with that section before they get started."

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