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Woman spreading husband’s ashes in Alaska rescued by vacationing firefighters, medic

The Ohio first responders rotated giving the woman piggyback rides down a mountain trail


The first responders helped the injured while hiking Flattop Mountain in Anchorage.

Photos/Rollin Pachinger

Aspen Pflughoeft
The Charlotte Observer

DENALI NATIONAL PARK, Alaska — Four friends hiking in Alaska rescued an injured woman and carried her down the mountain.

The friends from Mentor, Ohio, planned their backpacking trip to Denali National National Park in Alaska for over a year, Rollin Pachinger told McClatchy News on Aug. 24. The group included two firefighters, Pachinger and Jason Sorgen, a firefighter-paramedic named Gabriel Ananea, and Bryan Brown.

When they arrived on June 22, “we figured we should probably do a light hike – something kind of on the easier side – to get us going,” Pachinger said.

The group picked Flattop Mountain near Anchorage, Alaska, for its scenic views, he said. “We hiked the summit, and the summit was absolutely beautiful.”

On their way down, they noticed a woman sitting there who “just didn’t appear right,” Pachinger recalled.


The first responders helped the injured while hiking Flattop Mountain in Anchorage.

Photos/Rollin Pachinger

The Tennessee woman in her 70s had hiked up the mountain with a family member to spread her late husband’s ashes, Pachinger said. On the way down, she had injured her ankle and couldn’t put weight on it.

The Ohio group tried to call for help, but no local emergency response teams were not available so they stepped in, Pachinger explained.

“It was two and a half miles left to the mountain to get her down,” he said. “What we ended up doing was just rotating, giving her piggyback rides. And between the four of us, we rotated carrying her down the mountain.”

Some people they passed on the trail offered to help and the group took frequent water breaks.

Pachinger said that once they got the woman down, “we kind of thought that was gonna be the end of it.”

Except it wasn’t.

The woman contacted the Mentor Fire Department – where two of the men worked – and told them about her rescue, WKYC reported

In the email, the woman said the men “were the angels Jesus sent to rescue me. I will forever be grateful for their kindness, gentleness and willingness to help a stranger,” WKYC reported.

The fire station later posted on Facebook that, “it does not surprise us that these young men were quick to help this injured hiker in Alaska.”

The friends enjoyed the rest of their backpacking trip, hiking and seeing wildlife before returning home to Ohio, Pachinger said.

Mentor is about 20 miles northeast of Cleveland.

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