July 10--It was a sickening sound, a dull thud, that alerted Sunnyvale resident Dan Grasso that something had gone horribly awry with the rescue mission.
Grasso, 34, was on a hike Thursday in the inhospitable Shasta-Trinity National Forest near Big Bear Lake with his lifelong friend Jeremy Kilburn when Kilburn broke a leg after a German shepherd knocked him down. They were five miles out, across rocky, unstable terrain and the only way out would be by air.
"Hiking up there is so treacherous, with those kind of injuries you won't be able to continue," said Lt. Scott Frederick, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.
After borrowing radios from another group of hikers -- young camp counselors from Santa Cruz and their charge of a dozen underprivileged kids -- they sat tight and waited for the helicopter to arrive. It landed at 6:20 p.m. on the only available spot, a rock platform barely bigger than the chopper's skids, on a hillside.
That's when the tables turned for Kilburn, a U.S. Air Force trauma surgeon who lives in Las Vegas. Grasso said that as the rotors slowed, the blades began to sag and CHP paramedic Officer Tony Stanley -- who was moving beneath them -- was struck in the back of the head, going down instantly, unconscious with a shattered skull.
"I knew that for him to have a chance of surviving, I would have to get Jeremy to him," said Grasso, publicly detailing the episode for the first time on Monday.
They stumbled and hopped the 50 yards down the hill, Grasso bracing Kilburn as if they were running a three-legged race.
Kilburn established an airway, hooked Stanley up to oxygen and put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding, Grasso said.
"I cannot even imagine the pain Dr. Kilburn was in, unable to walk, when he rolled down the hill to the location of our injured officer," stated CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow in a news release. "Without regard to his own injuries and pain, Dr. Kilburn performed critical lifesaving steps, ultimately saving the life of our officer."
With Kilburn directing, they were also helped by camp counselors Elizabeth Fitch and Bryce Halbert, who knew basic first aid. They cleared room in the chopper to hold more people, loading up the injured officer, Kilburn and Fitch, who served as flight nurse on the 41-mile flight to Redding.
Grasso found himself in the company of a dozen kid campers and the remaining counselor. They hoofed it out as the sun went down, the kids helping out by each taking a portion of Kilburn and Fitch's gear.
Stanley, 40, is a 10-year veteran of the CHP. He remains hospitalized. Kilburn, who was treated and released for his broken leg, could not be reached Monday.
"He's not the kind of guy to take a lot of credit for something like this," said Grasso, an electrical engineer who moved to Sunnyvale three and a half years ago.
"He says 'That's my job, I do this every day,' " Grasso said. "That's for him to say. The rest of us will still call him a hero."