Northville hiker must pay New Hampshire for his rescue
Concord, N.H. — A Northville, Michigan, man injured during a 2012 hike in New Hampshire must pay for the cost of his rescue, the state's Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Edward Bacon was on a five-day solo hike in September 2012 when he dislocated his hip and had to be carried almost 4 miles in heavy rain.
The state Fish and Game Department charged him $9,200 after a judge found him negligent, but Bacon appealed that ruling to the high court, which rejected his argument Thursday.
Bacon argued he was prepared for the conditions and had adequately planned. But the state said his preparation was insufficient and he was negligent in trying to jump backward after having dislocated his hip five other times. The court also found he continued despite encountering high winds and rain.
"We agree with the trial court's conclusions that the defendant's injury was foreseeable and directly caused his need to be rescued," the court said in its ruling.
In a phone interview, Bacon, 62, said the weather information he received from other hikers that morning indicated he would have plenty of time to complete his hike before the rain and wind picked up. He defended his training regimen, and said he did not fall but rather dislocated his hip by jumping onto the ledge. He said his doctors had cleared him for hiking and never told him jumping could pose a risk.
"I have no recollection of saying I fell. It's kind of not fair — I was up there for six hours with a dislocated hip, in pain. Who knows what I said?" he said. "By the time I got to the emergency room, I was totally exhausted and they were pumping painkillers into me."
Bacon's rescue was one of more than 900 search and rescues conducted by Fish and Game between 2006 and 2012 at a total cost of $1.8 million, paid for by fees added to boat and off-road vehicle registrations. Since 2008, the state has been able to bill those found negligent for the cost of their rescues. And since January, the state has been selling $25 "Hike Safe" cards that allow buyers to avoid being held liable if they need to be rescued due to negligence.
Fish and Game Capt. John Wimsatt said he was pleased the court agreed Bacon was negligent.
"The important piece for us at Fish and Game is our department only has limited resources, personnel and funding to serve out our mission, including search and rescue," he said.
Bacon, an automotive engineer whose father grew up in New Hampshire, said he has hiked the state's mountains hundreds of times and had even considered retiring there. Not anymore, he said Thursday. And while he has hiked the same area of Franconia Notch twice since 2012, he doesn't know if he will return.
"It has soured me at this point," he said. "I'm looking at western mountains at the moment."
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