By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications
A Father’s Day trip turned into a rescue mission for a Mule Creek State Prison case records technician and his son.
Thomas Haeseker was enjoying his special day with his family on vacation and taking wilderness training with his young son, Hunter, when things quickly went downhill.
A young woman was very upset when her boyfriend, Chris, didn’t return from his dirt-bike ride the day before and was still missing.
“She had called 911 for search and rescue to find him. As she was telling me that, a CHP helicopter flew over my head and hovered,” said Haeseker. “I knew this was bad. I asked her where he would be riding and she said ‘around here somewhere.'”
Almost on cue, a Sheriff’s Deputy drove down the road into their camp to let them know a rider was missing.
“My wife Angie and my son started the Rhino to begin the search,” he said. “The Sheriff Deputy and I drove to a washed out ravine. The washout is about 70 feet across and 30 feet deep and over 100 yards long. We looked across the ravine and spotted him but he was not moving.”
A couple of other dirt-bike riders were standing on top of the washed-out road looking down at him.
“I climbed down the ravine and made my way across to him to find him badly injured and unable to move. The Deputy was trying to dispatch search and rescue to the ravine area, meanwhile the CHP helicopter was hovering 150 feet overhead unable to land. It brought back memories of the times I flew in Hueys that had painted beer cans covering the bullet holes (left over) from the Vietnam war when I was in the Marines and Navy more than 40 years ago,” said Haeseker.
He said it was a stressful situation but his experience and training kicked in. His time in the military, coupled with his training as a volunteer master diver on the Sacramento Sheriff’s dive team, served him in this situation.
“Something just clicks and you go to work. Nothing else matters. The dangers are a test of your skills you have learned to overcome and now live by. This is not a video game, this is for real. Once contact is made, you stay with them no matter what happens,” he said. “I checked to see if he was still here with us and we started talking. ‘Please don’t leave me. I’ve been here all night and I can’t move,’ he says to me.”
Haeseker assured the crash victim he wasn’t leaving.
“I was concerned about hypothermia and no hydration could cause blood clotting due to the lack of movement for 14 hours,” he said. “I had Hunter, my son, make his way back to the Rhino to get water and a blanket. That 8-year-old did not hesitate or ask twice. My wife and son also replaced all the ‘danger’ flagging that was taken down on the side he drove off of. Who would remove ‘danger’ flags?”
The Deputy called in the information to let his people know Chris was found alive but severely injured and a medical evacuation was needed.
“My first aid evaluation was: No blood on the ground – which is good, breathing was slow but normal, broken left hip, broken left wrist, possible broken ribs, major black eye, possible neck and back injuries. He had landed on a red ant nest and had numerous bug bites from red ants and mosquitoes. The red ants were crawling all over his black eye, which is why he put his helmet back on,” he said. “Pioneer Fire arrived with one EMT and driver, the best driver I’ve ever seen. He drove a city fire truck down a logging road, and backed it out. CHP/EMT was needed to help stabilize and remove Chris from the crash site.”
They then used the winch on Haeseker’s Rhino to pull everything out of the ravine.
“We carried him to the back of his father’s car and took him to the chopper that landed on the road,” he said. “The last thing I saw was the chopper flying over us, the pilot waving. I’m hopeful that Chris will be OK and I’m happy to have been able to help him.”