Rescued after falling 25 ft. from tree blind
ROSCOMMON COUNTY — An Almont man sustained serious injuries in a fall while in a remote hunting blind in Mid-Michigan on Opening Day of the Michigan firearm season for deer.
Authorities with the Michigan State Police told various news agencies the rescue eventually required the services of the U.S. Coast Guard.
61-year-old Max Wiggins of Almont ended up being airlifted in a basket by the Coast Guard following the incident. Wiggins was identified through numerous Facebook posts, not by police.
Wiggins had climbed from his tree-mounted deer blind early Wednesday morning, around 6 a.m., according to his wife Lisa.
Michigan State Police say the 61-year-old hunter from Almont fell about 25 feet from the tree stand Wednesday in a swampy area of Roscommon County known as Dead Stream Swamp.
“Max said he had his hand on a branch and it broke,” Lisa shared with the Tri-City Times in a phone call Friday morning.
“He landed on his feet and broke a lot of bones. After he called his brother for help, he laid on the ground for three hours, gasping for breath and trying to stay alive.”
Lisa said her husband broke his spine, sternum, ribs and pelvis in two places.
Investigators say Wiggins told police after falling, he was able to crawl back to where his backpack had fallen on the ground and he was able to recover his cell phone to call for help.
Wiggins first called his brother and then called 911, police say. His brother later led first responders and police to where the man had fallen.
After seeing the terrain, distance to the nearest road and the remoteness of the area, authorities later requested an airlift rescue from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter based in Traverse City.
Upon their arrival, rescue personnel aboard the hovering Coast Guard deployed a rescue basket to the ground where first responders and police helped load the injured hunter into the basket.
Wiggins was then lifted up into the helicopter in a basket and flown to an area trauma center where he was evaluated and treated for numerous injuries.
Lisa said the family is hoping to get him back to their Almont home, possibly as early as Thanksgiving weekend.
“That would be wonderful, but maybe a little ambitious,” she said. Lisa has remained at Max’s bedside since arriving in Traverse City.
She said they have connections to someone who works with Medstar EMS and is hoping to be able to arrange for transportation back to Almont.
“He will be non-weight bearing on his legs for eight weeks,” Lisa stated. “There are three surgeries scheduled in the next couple days. I am just so thankful he can feel and wiggle his toes and legs. He’s not paralyzed and we are so thankful for that.”
She went on to share, “I had to leave my job (home health care nurse) to come be with him. So there is no income now for us,” she shared.
As a result of the accident Lisa says, “I may have to end up taking a family medical leave (FMLA) to be with him. He won’t be able to help himself for several weeks. I’m not sure what we are going to do financially, but right now, we need to focus on Max getting better.”
The Wiggins have lived in Almont for 25 years and all of their children have attended Almont schools.
She said they have limited insurance with high deductibles, but will cross those bridges of payment at a later time. Since the accident, close friends of the family have established a gofundme account to help with medical bills.
A Facebook post says, “I started this go fund me to help with medical expenses and anything else the Wiggins will need help with through this stressful time.”
The post went on to explain the incident, saying, “On November 15 early in the morning Max was getting in his tree stand for opening day when he suddenly fell approx. 25 feet to the ground. Max was able to crawl to his backpack and call his brother and 911. He was then air lifted to a nearby hospital where he is staying for treatment. Max sustained multiple fractures and requires a few surgeries. Besides the pain he is doing well but is looking at a long road to recovery ahead.”
Identified only as “Beca”, the post’ author went on to add, “Max his wife and kids are life long friends of ours—have been like another set of parents to me and others! He is well known in our small town! We thank God that he is alive and will still be here for his wife, three kids and their significant others, his two grandkids, and all those that know and love him! If you are able to donate, it would be greatly appreciated. Please share this as much as possible! Any thing helps! Prayers and healing vibes for Max!!”
The Wiggins are hoping for a Thanksgiving miracle, but are still thankful for having their husband and father still with them.