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Crews Attempt Rescue of Injured Hunter

GOWANDA, New York -- Rescue crews were expecting an attempt to extract an injured hunter who plunged at least 150 feet into a gorge in Zoar Valley near Gowanda early Monday to resume after dawn today, authorities reported shortly before midnight.

The hunter, Erie County Sheriff's Tactical Flight Officer Art Litzinger and a half-dozen other rescue personnel were preparing late Monday to ride the night out together on the Cattaraugus Creek bank on the Cattaraugus County side.

Emergency personnel were rappelling clothing, food and medical supplies into the gorge late Monday. The group was on the bank of the creek off Point Peter Road in the Deer Lick Nature Sanctuary.

Darkness, ruggedness of terrain and inclement weather -- including rainy conditions and fog -- made impractical any further rescue efforts late Monday, resulting in the decision to forgo those efforts until daybreak, authorities said.

The 18-year-old male victim, whose name was not immediately available, suffered a serious head injury and an apparent broken leg in the fall. Rescuers were working to keep him stabilized on the creek bank.

The hunter became separated from his group at about 9:30 a.m. Monday and was reported missing a short time later, prompting a search by police and emergency personnel. It was unclear what caused the hunter to fall into the gorge.

He was found Monday afternoon by Litzinger and Erie County Sheriff's Capt. Kevin Caffery, who responded to the scene in the Air One sheriff's helicopter.

The two airmen waded through waist-deep water to reach the victim but needed to summon further emergency assistance. Litzinger stayed behind with the injured hunter on the bank of the creek while Caffery returned to Air One, which became low on fuel and was later unable to fly because of wet, windy weather.

While the victim and rescuers were waiting out the night in the gorge, other emergency responders established a command post nearby.

Officials feared that the inclement weather could cause a rise in the creek level and imperil the safety of the injured hunter and the rescue crews with him.

e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com 


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