Life-saving air ambulance program vital to remote rescues

Posted at 7:59 PM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 21:59:43-04

KALISPELL – The condition of a woman who survived a bear attack last week near Libby has been updated to fair which means she is conscious but uncomfortable.

As her road to recovery continues, a program at Kalispell Regional Medical Center was critical in her rescue. The A.L.E.R.T. Air Ambulance Program serves around 345 patients by transporting them to their destinations each year.

The woman who survived a bear attack near Libby last week was taken by A.L.E.R.T. Ambulance to KRMC..Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation President Tagen Vine says what makes the program special is it responds to such missions.

"One of the unique things about the A.L.E.R.T. Helicopter Program is that it goes to remote areas and does site-landing and helps with, many times, search and rescue operations whereas a lot of air-ambulances just do facility to facility transfers," Vine said. "The most recent example of the bear mauling near Libby was that was a remote site."

Vine says this is the 33rd bear attack incident A.L.E.R.T. Air Ambulance has responded to.

The program has been a partnership between the hospital and the greater Flathead community for more than 40 years, serving northwest Montana from Cut Bank to Libby and beyond.

"The reason we have been able to keep A.L.E.R.T. so special and be able to do those on-site transfers instead of just facility to facility is very much because of the support of this community and that relationship between the hospital and the program," Vine said.

The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Attack Response Team is continuing their investigation into the incident.

"Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is responsible for investigating any types of conflict that happen in the wild with wildlife," said FWP spokesman Dillon Tabish.

The agency could not release any further details Tuesday, but he encourages recreationists to carry bear spray and keep it with them.

"It is a proven tool that has been successful in the wild when it comes to conflicts with wildlife, it causes a temporary pain in the eyes nose and lungs of an animal if you do spray it," Tabish said.

The agency is working to determine the type of bear involved.