A Fall in Paradise: Air Evacuation from St. Kitts
The island of St. Kitts, in the eastern Caribbean, attracts tourists from around the world for its beautiful beaches, rain forest and mountains. But for an American couple on honeymoon, a hike into a dormant volcano took an unexpected turn and International SOS was there to help.
Service: International SOS membership
Location: St. Kitts, Caribbean
On one of the last days of their trip, newlyweds Clay and Acaimie set out to hike the inactive volcano in the centre of the island, a popular destination on St. Kitts. The trek is steep, rocky and slippery in the lush jungle terrain. After more than a two-hour climb to the top of Mount Liamuiga, Clay decided to take a rope trail down into the crater while Acaimie remained above.
“We had already reached the top and since it was a dormant volcano the crater of it was a lush prairie,” Clay wrote on social media. “I trusted the ropes with my weight too much and one of them snapped.”
He fell more than 50 feet down the hillside, suffering a fractured skull, loss of hearing in his right ear, and a severe concussion. An initial diagnosis of a cracked vertebrae turned out to be false; it was an air bubble that was picked up on the scan.
“I started getting this feeling, this really bad feeling, that something really bad had happened,” Acaimie said at a hospital news conference after their return. “I started to call down the mountain and I asked ‘Hey Clay are you okay, is everything alright?’ I didn’t hear a response at first and then I just listened really, really closely and I heard what sounded like Clay saying ‘Help!’
It took time for his wife to reach him, pull him to safety and find a phone signal to call for help. The climb out took several hours, and he was met by paramedics and taken to a local hospital.
“Acaimie is extremely strong and managed to help me back up out of the volcano crater and down the trail up its side until we got signal which was about two miles while I was collapsing and vomiting blood the entire way,” he wrote.
Immediately after initial contact with paramedics, the International SOS Assistance Centre in Philadelphia was alerted to help with medical transportation services and determined the fastest and most cost effective means of evacuation.
Clay’s injuries meant that he could not travel on a commercial carrier and needed an aircraft that would fly a lower altitude. In partnership with REVA, North America’s largest fixed-wing jet air-ambulance service, International SOS was able to facilitate air ambulance transportation back to the United States.
“At International SOS we have one common goal, to protect travellers,” said Dr Robert L. Quigley, Senior Vice President and Regional Medical Director of International SOS. “We’re extremely happy to hear that the patient is doing well and was discharged.
I am proud of my team of global specialists who did a flawless job of executing immediate air transportation assistance.”
The trip went smoothly, and Clay recovered at a hospital in Florida before returning home to Indiana. It’s a successful outcome that International SOS was pleased to have been a part of.