By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Wearing a helmet may have saved the life of a 29-year-old New Hampshire man who suffered serious injuries when he fell from his mountain bicycle in the woods of Harold Parker State Forest yesterday, according to fire Lt. Graham Rowe.
The unidentified biker went over his handle bars while heading down a steep grade on a section of the Bay Circuit Trail and his head hit a rock, Rowe said. The man suffered head and neck injuries but was alert when rescuers got to him, at least a mile into the woods, Rowe said.
The injured man was riding with two friends when the accident occurred, according to Rowe. One of the friends had a cell phone and called 911. Because the mishap took place near the Andover Sportsmen’s Club, the person who made the call thought they were in that town, Rowe explained.
The Andover dispatcher checked the GPS coordinates from the call and determined they were actually in North Andover. The North Andover Police and Fire departments got the call at 10:30 a.m.
North Andover and Andover firefighters responded, as well as North Andover police Officer Eric Sewade, who is assigned to the bike patrol. Rangers from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation also joined in the effort, Rowe said.
Six firefighters went into the woods to rescue the injured man. Sewade and one of the victim’s friends rode their mountain bikes and were helpful in guiding rescuers through the woods, Rowe said. When they got to the victim, they placed him on a backboard, then carried him to Old Cart Way.
“It took a little time to get him out,” Rowe said. From Old Cart Way, an ambulance took the victim to Reynolds Field on Johnson Street, where a helicopter waited to bring him to a Boston hospital.
The entire effort took about an hour and a half, Rowe said. It was fortunate that the victim was accompanied by two friends and that they had a cell phone with which to call 911, he noted. Judging by the dent in the victim’s helmet, he would have suffered a much more serious injury had he not been wearing it, Rowe said.
“Thank God it happened in the day,” he added, noting that rescuing an injured person in the woods when it’s dark can be treacherous.
“Everybody worked well together,” he said of a rescue that involved public safety personnel from two towns.