[Moab Sun News file photo]

An Oakland, California, man broke open a restroom door at the Delicate Arch trailhead in Arches National Park with a hammer to help a Pennsylvania man suffering from cardiac arrest. 

Nick Baker, 30, performed CPR on the victim as bystanders looked for park rangers and called for first responders on Saturday, Jan. 19. The Delicate Arch trailhead, located in a remote area of the park, is about a 20 minute drive from the Arches Visitor’s Center and 18 miles outside of Moab. 

Four firefighters and an emergency room nurse hiking in the area were also among the bystanders who jumped into action when the man became trapped in the restroom.

The victim, who has not been identified, was flown to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, Colorado. The man later died, first responders said. 

GCEMS, National Park Service and Classic Air Medical responded to the emergency call. Known to be the most popular trail in the area, no personnel from the National Park Service were immediately on-hand or patrolling in the area, bystanders said.

Arches National Park Lead Ranger Scott Brown said the park’s rangers are continuing to do their jobs despite the lack of government appropriations due to the shutdown that began on Dec. 22. Brown said Arches and Canyonlands national parks are paying essential employees — law enforcement rangers — with re-directed project money generated from entrance booth fees.

Baker said he was returning to the trailhead parking lot with his family when they saw five or six people at the restroom who said a man had been trapped inside for 10 to 15 minutes. As one bystander drove to the Arches Visitor Center to call for help, another bystander was attempting to jimmy the door lock open with a credit card. Baker said everyone was working with a sense of urgency.

“Immediately my dad and I tried to break the window, but we didn’t want it to shatter on the man in the restroom,” Baker said. “Eventually we found someone with a hammer and myself and another man broke the door open. Once we got the door open, three of us went in and found the man slumped on the toilet. We picked him up and moved him outside of the bathroom.”

Once the man was on the ground, the bystanders determined that he had no pulse and was not breathing. Baker began performing CPR.

“I switched off with a few other people but finally we were able to get him started breathing and we got a pulse,” Baker said.

Park rangers arrived soon after he began CPR, Baker said.

Grand County Emergency Medical Services (GCEMS) Community Outreach Coordinator McKay Vowles said the response to the emergency by the Arches National Park rangers was “remarkable” during the partial government shutdown.

“They did an incredible job quickly responding and helping this patient,” Vowles said.

Baker also said that it’s incredible “that they are willing to continue to do that job, with the lack of support they receive from the government.”

“Any government official who would willingly contribute to the government shutdown is putting lives at risk,” he said.

Baker said all of the excepted employees with law enforcement at Arches and Canyonlands are reporting for duty every day that they’ve been scheduled to work since the shutdown began.

He said the law enforcement rangers are “a small portion of the staff required to operate these parks,” but said that even with the lack of federal appropriations, the staff is at about its normal level for the slower pace of its wintertime operations.

Five park rangers responded to the cardiac arrest emergency with about a seven-minute response time, Brown said. He said five rangers responding to an emergency in the park “is pretty light” for incidents requiring a helicopter and medical evacuation.

“Depending on where these incidents are, we can have 15 (rangers),” he said.

Brown wants people to know that the National Park Service’s law enforcement rangers at Arches and Canyonlands are monitoring and enforcing park policies.

“I have received a few comments that it was really nice to see such a coordinated effort among the bystanders who helped that man initially and the park rangers who responded, as well as Grand County EMS and Classic Air Medical,” Brown said.

He said the agencies’ responses culminated into a well-coordinated effort.

“There is an understanding that we are providing that public service and that there is a general assumption that we would be compensated in the end, but people still need to be looking out for public safety,” Brown said. “These folks are proud to do the work. They understand there is a bigger picture to taking care of people and taking care of the parks and eventually they’ll receive their pay.”

As for the restroom’s door, Brown said it will be fixed pretty soon.

Bystanders break open restroom door and administer CPR; Law enforcement rangers continue to work during federal shutdown

“Eventually we found someone with a hammer and myself and another man broke the door open.”