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Medical helicopter lands in difficult terrain for teen

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A rescue helicopter made a challenging landing in tough Manitoba terrain Friday following an emergency medical call from a group of Minnesota teens on a wilderness adventure.

The STARS chopper received a call that a teenage girl was suffering from an asthma attack about 3:20 p.m. Friday at Atikaki Provincial Park. The park is about 230 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg near the Ontario border.

Colin Fast, spokesman for STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society), said the 17-year-old was with a group of about a dozen youths, aged 17 to 18, from St. Cloud, Minn. The group is called Les Voyageurs.

Les Voyageurs' website describes itself as an organization that "provides young people with an extensive outdoor leadership program that includes an expedition of approximately 30 days into remote regions of central and northern Manitoba and/or Ontario... "

The teen was flown by STARS to Seven Oaks Hospital Friday.

Fred Rupp, the executive director of Les Voyageurs, said the girl was in stable condition Friday and he expects her parents to pick her up today and take her home to St. Cloud.

"It's an event that seems to have passed," Rupp said. "I think she's fairly good."

Rupp said the group of Les Voyageurs has been in the rugged Canadian Shield park for three weeks and will return home Tuesday. He said the adult supervisor of the Les Voyageurs group was with the teen at Seven Oaks but would return today to Atikaki.

The group left behind Friday in Atikaki was temporarily without adult supervision but is highly trained, is in 24-hour contact with medical personnel and has full communications abilities, Rupp said.

"They will stay put," he said.

The Winnipeg-based STARS chopper that was called in by satellite phone included two pilots, a nurse, paramedic and medical doctor, Fast said.

He said weather conditions in Atikaki were calm and clear but the Canadian Shield terrain made landing the helicopter difficult.

With the rocks, trees and water, "they were not ideal landing conditions," he said. "It was interesting given the terrain."

The location is also one of the most remote spots STARS has flown to on a medical call since coming to Manitoba full time in April 2011, Fast said. STARS has flown about 540 missions since that time, he added.

Fast said Manitoba Conservation dispatched a firefighting helicopter from Bissett to help locate the Minnesota group and fuel the STARS helicopter during its return trip to Winnipeg.

STARS is a non-profit air-rescue service contracted by the provincial government.

greg.lockert@freepress.mb.ca

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