MISSOULA — Three people in a car were injured Monday after their vehicle swerved to avoid another car observing a bear along Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road, according to the Park Service.
The vehicle plunged 40 feet down an embankment near Packer's Roost, several miles below the Loop, Park Service spokeswoman Lauren Alley said Tuesday. Park sawyers cut down a number of trees so that a tow truck could remove the vehicle, while crews rappelled down to the vehicle's occupants, she said in a phone interview.
The three people in the car that went off the embankment were transported to the hospital, two via ambulance and one via ALERT helicopter. All were reported to be in stable condition.
Officials, law enforcement and rescue crews had their hands full on Monday with incidents across Glacier Park.
Around 5 p.m. on Monday, nearly the same time the car swerved off the Going-to-the-Sun Road, park rangers responded to a call at Lake Josephine, near the Grinnell Glacier trail, for a visitor who suffered an "open ankle fracture" from falling off a horse.
The rider was transported to a hospital by ALERT helicopter after rescue crews carried the person to the trailhead.
During these two incidents, the park also responded to:
- a report of an infant locked in a car
- two missing parties
- a bear struck by a car on Highway 2 outside the park
- a DUI arrest in Many Glacier
- and an abandoned dog at Logan Pass Visitor Center.
As Glacier's visitation numbers continue to climb (2018, despite significant fires that shuttered parts of the park, was the second highest year for visitation numbers on record), Alley said clusters of incidents as seen Monday are not always tied to the number of people in the park.
"It is certainly a focus of ours, looking at road congestion and the ability of emergency vehicles to respond," she said. "It's definitely one of the more challenging aspects of the park and the more people you have the more challenging it becomes."
According to the release, Glacier National Park law enforcement and emergency services incidents year to date are up 40% from 2018. Total calls for service are up 500 more calls year to date from 2018 figures.
Last year in early July, the Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed for several hours due to a vehicle collision at Triple Arches, Alley said.
Calls poured in Monday from family members worried about visitors delayed on Going-to-the-Sun Road after the three-person vehicle went off the road. Park service officials said "hundreds" of vehicles and several shuttle buses were held up during the recovery effort Monday evening.
“Unexpected incidents in the park can have significant consequences for visitors,” Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said in the release. “Always carry extra food and water, even if you are not planning on hiking into the backcountry. You should always plan for the unplanned, including delays along the road or elsewhere.”
Due to the increased number of calls, Mow urged visitors to plan carefully.
“Visitors can help by planning their trips, communicating with their family members about their whereabouts, and being prepared to change their itineraries depending on current park conditions," he said.