Two men who had to be rescued from Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire’s White Mountains after wandering off the hiking trails in June with no equipment have pleaded guilty to reckless conduct charges, authorities said Tuesday.
Jason Feierstin, 22, of Lowell and Dylan Stahley, 25, of Windsor, N.H., entered their pleas Aug. 9 in 2nd Circuit Court in Littleton, N.H. They were fined $200 and given $48 penalty assessments, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said.
Around 2:15 p.m. on June 11, a hiker called 911 after becoming “stuck” in a dangerous position while lying under a ledge, trying to keep from falling off a cliff.
Authorities used 911 tracking to determine the hiker was on the east side of Franconia Notch State Park, in a section known as Hounds Hump. The hiker had been with a friend, neither of whom followed a trail, instead scaling steep ledges, officials said.
The hiker told dispatchers “we were exploring,” officials said in a statement, which didn’t identify the caller by name. The caller’s friend was able to keep climbing but eventually contacted 911 because he also couldn’t find a way down.
Rescuers found the stranded hiker’s friend but he couldn’t lead rescuers to the other hiker’s position, officials said. A rescuer spotted the other hiker around 6:30 p.m. from an observation point on Interstate 93 and used a drone to gather more location data.
“This allowed the command team to talk the rescue climbers in to reaching the ledge with the stranded hiker,” the statement said. “By 7:21 p.m. rescuers had been able to rappel down to the stranded hiker and placed him in a harness to be extracted.”
The men weren’t familiar with the area and lacked the necessary equipment and footwear for such difficult terrain, officials said.
Through their recklessness, the hikers “placed the rescuers in danger of serious bodily injury,” officials said.
“The safety of rescuers is paramount in the execution of search and rescue missions,” said Lieutenant James Kneeland of Fish and Game’s Law Enforcement Division. “When people put themselves into hazardous situations needlessly or by being ill prepared, and put rescuers in harm’s way, they need to be held accountable.”
Conservation officers want people to enjoy the White Mountains, but they should “understand that they are accountable for their decisions and actions,” he said.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.