Bravery In Our Own Back Yard
By Bernetta Calderone
From Issue 16: Fall 2012
We live in one of the most beautiful areas. It includes the Shawangunk Ridge, a majestic state park filled with cliffs, trails, waterfalls … and dangerous crevices. On July 14th I saw a helicopter over the ridge. It’s a common sight. “Someone must have got hurt on the ridge,” I said to one of my guests coming back from a hike.
The following day I learned that a man had fallen 60 feet into a crevice at Gertrude’s Nose, a popular hiking spot in Minnewaska State Park. I also found out that State Park Ranger Melissa Milano, who lives in Gardiner and is the daughter of Patricia and Mario Milano, was at the bottom of this crevice responding to his medical needs. Melissa was the first at the scene; then came her partners, brothers Todd and Jamison Martin. A decision was made that she would be the one to be lowered down since she is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
A crevice is not like a ravine, it’s narrow, with limited space, so she couldn’t take her medical bag. So, with no rope training at the time, she was harnessed and lowered in by Todd and Jamison. When she got to the injured man he was shaking from the cold, and in spite of limited visibility she was able to do an assessment.
Melissa’s medical supplies were then lowered and she did her “EMT thing.” A paramedic came later and did what he does. Finally, they had to harness the injured man into a basket and he was lifted out and transported by helicopter to a hospital. They were down in the crevice for three hours. In the meantime, many agencies responded: the Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, Walker Valley Rope Rescue, Bear Mountain Rangers and Gardiner Mobile Life Support. When I congratulated Melissa for a job well done she replied, “I couldn’t have done it without my team.” She called to check on her patient the next day; he was out of the ER and doing fine.
As a retired instructor, I know there is always a question as to how a trained responder will react in an emergency situation. Some freeze; some watch; some take charge. This was Melissa’s first crevice rescue. She took charge, and her team did an outstanding job. I asked her if there was anything she could have done better and she said, “We need more training for this kind of emergency situation. The ridge is unique, filled with nooks and crannies, crevices and ravines.”
Melissa was educated at Oneonta private schools and Hartwick College. She is a certified EMT, an archaeological technician and is wild land and fire fighting-trained. She has limited rappelling skills but would love to have more training. Melissa has a goal, and that is to become a National Forest Ranger. She has high hopes combined with great courage and skills. Although it is her job to react in an emergency situation, I believe she went above and beyond her training and should receive a commendation along with her team members, Todd and Jamison Martin. Thanks, Melissa; you’re an amazing young woman!