Over a dozen volunteers worked for hours to extricate him from the woods
POMFRET - Rescuers chainsawed their way through steep stretches of woods late Saturday morning to get to the long-time headmaster of the Mid Vermont Christian School after he apparently fell up to 100 feet down a cliff while dragging out a deer that he'd shot during a solo hunting expedition.
Robert Bracy Jr., 58, who lives in Quechee near the school he has led for the past 18 years, "is hurt very badly and has severe injuries," MVCS Board Chairman Perry Seale acknowledged on Tuesday morning although he said friends and family members were taking it as "a very good sign" that he had made it through his first 72 hours since he was airlifted to the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.
"Bob is on life support in the Intensive Care Unit in critical condition and he has been since he arrived there," Seale noted.
One of DHART's medivac helicopters landed on the ball field at Clifford Park in West Hartford
Seale said that while "we just can't put all the details together yet to figure out exactly what happened," after Bracy fell late Saturday morning he was somehow able to get a cellphone call out to his wife of 35-years and she in turn contacted his long-time co-worker and friend Ralph Richards, MVCS's facilities manager, who had a rough idea of where Bracy had been hunting.
Richards and his son Jake, who like the Bracys' three sons had attended MVCS, began scouring the woods which rise sharply above the western bank of the White River in the section of Pomfret that borders Sharon and West Hartford off of a small town road called White River Lane.
The Richards, who Seale called "the heroes in this," were able to find the badly injured Bracy after he called out to them from the base of a steep cliff and they in turn ended up leading members of the Pomfret-Teago Volunteer Fire Department, Pomfret F.A.S.T Squad, Woodstock Ambulance, Woodstock Fire & Rescue and the Hartford Fire Department into the remote scene.
Pomfret Fire Captain Zach Bowley was in charge of the rescue effort which he ran from a command post set up at the end of White River Lane while 13 first responders and three civilian volunteers headed about a half-a-mile up hilly terrain to Bracy.
"The grade of the hill, I believe, was the biggest challenge. About a fourth of that distance was through woods uphill with the last stretch to him being extremely steep," Bowley recalled.
"Chainsaws were needed to get the UTV’s (utility task vehicles - think 'Polaris Ranger') as close as possible, the last bit was all hand work," Bowley explained, "A 'Stokes Basket' was used to move him over the ground and to the UTV then the ambulance to meet up with DHART," about a mile to the south at a landing zone set up by the Hartford Fire Department in West Hartford's Clifford Park recreational area.
Bowley praised the crews that worked for hours to get Bracy to the helicopter and who then spent nearly another hour retrieving and packing away their rescue gear.
"Everyone worked well together from the dispatchers to the firefighters and EMTs to the DHART crew in getting the patient to the hospital team. None of us could of done it alone," the captain said.
Both board chairman Seale and MVCS Principal Deborah Hellickson said that the school, which enrolls just over a hundred students in a tightly knit community, was pulling together in the wake of the accident and staff and parents are stepping up to help fill some of the roles that Bracy has performed there over the years while he recovers.
"Bob’s contribution and impact at Mid Vermont cannot fully be explained through mere words, as the emotional and spiritual contributions he makes beyond administration are often a matter of his presence and feelings he provides," Hellickson said in a statement Tuesday. "Through 18 years of ministry at MVCS, you can only begin to imagine the lives he has impacted! Bob even has alumni and families that stop in to see him and check in when they are in town (even this week). This is a difficult time for Bob’s family and for the school family, but we all know that God is in control and with the support from each other, we can see it through together. There is no way that we can fill the shoes of a man who wears so many hats as our school headmaster. However, we are doing our best to share the tasks that need to be cared for in a way that continue to provide for the needs of our students, parents, faculty and staff."
Members of Hartford Fire, Woodstock Ambulance and the Dartmouth Hitchcock Air Response Team transferred Bracy to the waiting DHART helicopter early Saturday afternoon
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