By Jack Minch
ASHBURNHAM -- Hikers and first responders worked unsuccessfully to save the life of a 72-year-old Townsend man who apparently suffered a heart attack on the side of Mount Watatic on New Year's Day about noon, according to Fire Chief Paul Zbikowski.
Hikers described a "Herculean effort" by fire and police to save the victim identified by police as Gary Evans, of Townsend.
Evans planned to hike up the Route 119 side of the mountain while his grown son would run up the other side. The elder Evans made it about three-quarters up the mountain before collapsing near an overlook, said police Det. Rob Siano.
Tom and Diana Kamila, of Ashburnham, said they were hiking when they reached the spot and found Evan's son performing CPR.
"His son was the first to reach (Evans) lying down, so he doesn't know how long he was lying there," Tom Kamila said.
Kamila, a carpentry instructor at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Fitchburg, is trained in CPR and began to help for an estimated 30 to 45 minutes.
The son had already called 911 but Kamila called again.
More hikers soon came upon the scene, including Fitchburg City Clerk Anna Farrell and her husband Vinnie, and Donald Bullard of Winchendon.
Bullard ran down the hill on to Route 119 to direct the first rescuers, including Siano, to the scene.
Ashburnham first responders do not have a snowmobile, so they called in help from Ashby, which has an all-terrain vehicle that was used for hauling equipment and carrying Evans.
Members of the Townsend Fire Department arrived with a snowbulance, but it was not needed.
"A lot of us were falling on the ice up there," said Deputy Fire Chief Rick Sicard.
The terrain was steep, with an incline estimated at a 20 percent to 25 percent grade. This forced rescue workers to put the victim on a sled. Seven workers carried the victim to the other side of the mountain, which is not as steep.
The steep part of the mountain required some hikers to walk ahead about 30 feet to tie a rope to a tree so rescuers could pull themselves and the sled up the hill, Anna Farrell said.
"It was quite an event," she said.
Hikers said it was a sad rescue.
"I didn't want to see anything like that," Bullard said. "Not a good scene to run into."
Hikers repeatedly praised the work of the emergency workers.
"Even dragging him up, they'd stop and work on him some more," Anna Farrell said.
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