- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

SWANLAKE, Idaho (AP) - Aaron Larson thinks some things happen for a reason.

That’s how he looks at his decision to go hunting Tuesday in the mountains east of his Swanlake area home in southern Bannock County.

Not only did he shoot a three-point buck but his decision to look for game likely saved another man’s life.

On his journey back home Tuesday evening, the 25-year-old Larson was riding his four-wheeler when something caught his eye in the ravine adjacent to the mountain trail he was taking to Stockton Road. It’s likely that because Larson stopped to investigate a dull light he saw shining at the bottom of the darkened ravine, Larry McClanahan, 74, of Forks, Washington, is alive today.

McClanahan had been hunting in the same mountains where Larson bagged his buck and was heading back to Stockton Road when disaster struck. McClanahan’s all-terrain vehicle slipped off the trail and down a 30-foot ravine. He and the ATV rolled down the steep embankment and the vehicle ended up landing on top of him.

The impact severely injured McClanahan’s head and neck. The good news is that although he spent most of Wednesday in surgery at Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, he’s expected to recover, said his son, Ray McClanahan of Scappoose, Oregon.

“My dad was trapped under a four-wheeler out in the middle of nowhere,” Ray McClanahan said. “He couldn’t move his arms or legs and would have froze to death or a predator would have gotten him. He was in an area where there weren’t any people. I consider it a miracle that someone was in the right spot at the right time to find him.”

Larson said he wasn’t sure what he saw at the bottom of the ravine around 7:20 p.m. that made him stop his ATV.

“I just so happened to glance over and see what turned out to be his headlight pressed up against the side (of the ravine),” said Larson, who farms with his father-in-law outside of Swanlake. “I asked if anyone was down there and thought I heard something, so I shut off my four-wheeler. I asked again and he said ‘help.’”

Larson carefully made his way on foot to the bottom of the ravine and saw that Larry McClanahan was pinned under an ATV. Larson freed the man and tried to assess his injuries.

“I asked if he was OK and he said he was paralyzed,” Larson said. “He didn’t think he could move his legs or his hands.”

Larson then realized that he had left his cell phone at home on Stockton Road about three miles away.

“I said ‘Sir, I’m going to have to leave you for 20 minutes’ and I grabbed my four-wheeler and went back to the house,” Larson said. “I got the phone and dialed 911 and then grabbed a couple blankets to take up to him.”

When Larson got back to the ravine Larry McClanahan had taken a turn for the worse.

“He slowly lost energy and didn’t want to talk and then he stopped talking and all he could do was groan,” Larson said. “I thought he was going downhill really fast.”

Larson decided to head back to Stockton Road because he thought he might run into emergency responders and be able to guide them to the ravine. He figured correctly and met up with Monte Henderson, an emergency medical technician for Downey Ambulance, at the trailhead just off the roadway.

He gave Henderson a ride to the victim and the EMT began to immediately provide emergency treatment to keep the injured man alive. More emergency responders arrived soon after and the Life Flight emergency helicopter was called in to transport Larry McClanahan to PMC.

The helicopter initially landed on Stockton Road but emergency responders decided that it would be better if Life Flight landed in a clearing about 300 yards from the ravine because it would be a much closer place to pick up the victim.

Larson’s father-in-law Glen Merrill then showed up in a pickup truck, which responders used to transport Larry McClanahan to the new landing zone. At this point Larson thought the ordeal was finally over and he headed home.

“I still had my deer on my ATV and (the responders) said they didn’t need my help, so I came down the mountain with my deer,” Larson said.

He was surprised to see his father-in-law arrive at the trailhead shortly behind him. The news wasn’t good - the Life Flight helicopter suffered a breakdown after landing closer to the ravine and could not take off.

“I felt bad for Larry,” Larson said. “I was thinking if he was going to have a chance, it would be darn faster to get him to the hospital in the helicopter. When I was in the ravine I couldn’t get him to move his feet or hands. Larry was pretty calm but he was in a lot of pain.”

Emergency responders ended up bringing Larry McClanahan off the mountain in a special trailer towed by an ATV. He was loaded onto a waiting ambulance and made it to PMC around 11:30 p.m.

Life Flight’s crew worked on the helicopter for a couple hours and finally made enough repairs to fly it back to PMC early Wednesday morning.

Larson said it was a stroke of luck that Life Flight “broke down on the ground rather than in the air.”

But he said he’s convinced much of what happened on that mountain near Swanlake Tuesday night was something more than luck.

Larson said, “I was in the right place at the right time. I had to talk my wife Melanie into letting me go hunting. I felt I needed to go so I could fill my tag because I hardly went out hunting for deer this year, but I really needed to go for another reason. I think this all happened for a reason. There was a reason I was up there, it just wasn’t the reason I thought.”

___

Information from: Idaho State Journal, http://www.journalnet.com

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