March 22, 2015
ALBANY, NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo sent out the following statement:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today commended the Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers, Environmental Conservation Officers and New York State Police involved in today’s rescue of a mother and her two sons from the summit of Mt. Marcy in Essex County after searching overnight in extreme weather conditions.
At approximately 11:00 a.m. today, a State Police Aviation Unit Helicopter spotted 39-year-old Ning Cai and her two sons, ages 7 and 11, from Potsdam, in the Adirondacks near the summit of Mt. Marcy, New York State’s highest mountain. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers searched overnight in sub-zero temperatures and high winds, and were assisted early this morning by DEC Environmental Conservation Police and State Police to find the family.
“We are all grateful that the family is now safe, thanks to the exceptional work of the Forest Rangers and State Police,” Governor Cuomo said. “Time and time again, DEC Forest Rangers, DEC Environmental Conservation Police and the New York State Police selflessly heed the call to help others in the most dire of situations to ensure the safety of the residents and visitors of New York State. I congratulate them all on a job well done.”
“DEC Forest Rangers are one of the premiere search and rescue organizations in the country. Their knowledge of first aid, land navigation and technical rescue techniques are often critical to the success of their missions,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “This successful search and rescue incident demonstrates they don’t do it alone. It often takes the cooperation of state and local agencies, working as a team to ensure a successful ending no matter what conditions they face.”
The State Police Aviation Unit hoisted a Forest Ranger down to the family and assessed them. All were in fair condition with some cold-related injuries. Forest Rangers hoisted the two boys up to the helicopter that then transported them to Adirondack Medical Center in Lake Placid at approximately 12:15 p.m. for further evaluation and treatment.
Additional Forest Rangers arrived and tended to the mother while the boys were transported. The helicopter returned for the mother, hoisted her from the mountain and transported her to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake at approximately 12:50 p.m. for further evaluation and treatment.
The family had reached the summit of Mt. Marcy and began the trek back down the mountain at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 21. They were unable to locate the trail or the equipment they had left at the tree line. At 5:25 p.m. Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook from Ms. Cai who reported she and her children were lost.
A Forest Ranger stationed at the Lake Colden Caretaker Cabin immediately responded to the mountain. An additional four Forest Rangers responded to the mountain via snowmobile from the South Meadow Trailhead while three other Forest Rangers headed out from the Adirondack Loj Trailhead.
Searchers established communications with the family. Attempts to obtain the GPS coordinates of the family’s location were unsuccessful. It was later learned from Ms. Cai’s husband that the phone was an older foreign model and likely not compatible with the local system.
Forest Rangers reached summit of Mt. Marcy at 9:30 p.m., about the same time communications between them and Ms. Cai ended. Rangers searched until midnight with no signs of the family. Cold temperatures, strong winds and rugged terrain made the search difficult. Winds up to 30 and 40 mph with gusts to 50 mph, -10 degrees temperatures and dangerous wind chills of -30 to -40 were forecast, raising significant concerns for the welfare of the family.
Six additional Forest Rangers were dispatched to the mountain after midnight to relieve the rangers on the mountain.
Early this morning, Rangers set up a command post on the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adirondack Loj property. In total, 26 Forest Rangers, four Environmental Conservation Officers, New York State Police Aviation, State Police Special Operations Response Team and State Police supervisory staff were involved in the rescue in the field and at the command post.
Before planning a hike in the back country, the public is urged to properly plan, prepare and remain alert to changing weather conditions. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety (http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28708.html) and Adirondack Trail Information (http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7865.html) web for more information.