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Commissioner recovering from bike crash

Backcountry rescue brings McCleary off cliff


Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary displays her cast at the Blaine County Democrats Oktoberfest rally at Forest Service Park in Ketchum on Saturday afternoon. McCleary attended the event only a day after a mountain bike crash near Griffin Butte resulted in a dislocated elbow and a rescue organized by the Ketchum Sun Valley Backcountry Medical Rescue Team. Photo by Willy Cook

Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary was back at work Monday following a mountain bike crash that dislocated her elbow and resulted in a backcountry rescue.

McCleary said the crash occurred Friday afternoon near the top of the Adams Gulch Loop near Griffin Butte.

She said she was biking alone when she brought the bike over a rock and made an unstable landing that propelled her off the trail.

“I was very pleased that day because it was such a beautiful day, and I was riding really well—until I crashed,” she said with a laugh.

She said that after the unstable landing, she caught a pedal and went off the trail and over the cliff, dislocating her elbow when she attempted to catch herself with both arms. McCleary said she sustained no other injuries.

"I didn't break anything," she said. "I was really lucky."

She said that at first after her fall, she suspected that she could walk the remainder of the trail and simply go to a doctor’s office when she got down. But after calling on her cell phone to two doctors’ offices with no response, McCleary said she felt herself going in and out of consciousness.

“At that point I felt that I couldn’t move at all, and I was barely conscious, so I thought it was a good idea to call 911,” she said.

Ketchum Fire Department Chief Mike Elle said the area where McCleary was found was six miles from the trailhead, near a similar rescue that occurred last year when a biker went off the trail and down a cliff, fracturing his skull.

“There’s a tricky spot there,” he said. “Even when you’re really good, you tip over and go downhill.”

“I was very pleased that day because it was such a beautiful day, and I was riding really well
—until I crashed.”
Angenie McCleary

Elle and McCleary said a trail runner passed McCleary and realized she needed help, and came and stayed with her through the duration of the rescue.

Ketchum Sun Valley Backcountry Medical Rescue Team members Miles Canfield, Greg Martin and Don Nurge were dispatched at 12:56 p.m., reaching the trailhead at 1:24 p.m. and reaching McCleary around 2 p.m.

The three were the first to arrive on scene, with Nurge steering a motorcycle that also held Canfield and medical equipment. Elle said crews from the Ketchum and Sun Valley fire departments also responded with backcountry rescue gear and a four-wheeled backcountry rescue vehicle.

McCleary said that even though she was in and out of consciousness, she did receive a text message saying a technical rescue team had been dispatched. She said she regularly receives those messages as a county commissioner, but that it was reassuring to know that the team was coming. From there, she said, everything went smoothly.

“From a personal perspective, it was nice to have everything go smoothly,” she said. “It was really reassuring to see what a high-quality emergency response we have.”

Elle said McCleary was transported to St. Luke's Wood River by air ambulance roughly two and a half hours after the accident occurred.

McCleary was set to run in the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday with her friend Johanna Olson, who is running the marathon as a celebration of life in the face of her 15-year struggle with brain cancer. McCleary committed to the marathon before the bike crash, and said she still hopes to run with Olson—though not for any kind of personal best time.

“Normally I would not care about running a marathon after an injury like this,” she said. “But there are 40 of us going to support her, [and] it’s not like I have to run fast.”

McCleary said she would likely run alongside Olson, who plans to run for four minutes and walk for one minute through the entire marathon.

Kate Wutz:

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