Friday, August 9, 2013

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Week 12

ProRangers and Followers,
As week 12 draws to a close, I have more experiences to share from Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I started my week working with Ranger Mark Krebs on the same "swing" shift as last week. During my first day back, we were responsible for covering both the Hatteras Island District and the Bodie Island District due to a scheduled court date for the other Rangers. Shortly after signing on duty, we received our first call for the Bodie Island area, a possible DUI driver parked at the Ramp 23 beach access parking lot. As we were responding, we contacted the reporting party for additional information as well as a description of the vehicle. One of the county deputies was in the Ramp 23 area, and advised us that she would search for the vehicle. After arriving at Ramp 23, we met with the deputy, who did not find the vehicle. Ranger Krebs and I also did not observe any vehicles matching the description.

As we were finishing up that call, the Bodie Island Lifeguard crew reported a vehicle parked near their stand, in a vehicle free area. Ranger Krebs and I headed north towards the Ramp 2 access in order to investigate. Upon arriving at he beach, Ranger Krebs and I found the described vehicle in a no vehicle zone. Since it is not our normal patrol area, we drove past the vehicle to inspect the beach signs and make sure that the area was adequately marked. Next, we contacted the ORV permit holder and advised them of the problem. Using discretion, Ranger Krebs decided to issue a citation to the permit holder. Being that the area was clearly marked, there was no mistaking the pedestrian beach as a ORV area.

On our way back to the Hatteras District, we heard a call for a possible domestic in progress near our location in one of the villages. Ranger Krebs quickly contacted the responding deputies in order to see if they needed assistance. The deputies confirmed that we needed to respond, and we headed towards the address. Due to our location, Ranger Krebs and I were the first ones on scene. Fortunately,the situation had digressed upon our arrival, and there was not an active domestic situation at the time. The responding deputy asked us to stay on scene for a short time, until the investigation was complete. After clearing this agency assist, we made our way back to Buxton. During our drive back, we conducted two traffic stops for vehicles exhibiting unsafe driving behavior and weaving on the roadway. After conducting HGN and PBT on both of these stops, it was determined that the drivers were not DUI. We finished the day by working in paperwork in the office, a necessary part of law enforcement.

On my second day of the week, I was assigned to work the early shift with Ranger Malionek. After signing on duty, we quickly checked the beach assess ramps for night driving violations. Next, we made a few repairs to the patrol vehicle and continued on our patrol of the park. After checking all of the ramps and patrolling the entire district, we returned to the office to catch up on reports and other needed paperwork.

Thursday, I was again assigned to the morning shift. As we started the shift, we headed out to the nearest ramp to check for night driving violations. Instead of finding vehicles on the beach, we found a much more interesting surprise, a homemade raft. Upon finding the raft, we immediately called the local Coast Guard Station to find out if they had any rescues in the area, or if they were aware of a stranded raft. As we were waiting to hear back from the Coast Guard, we cordoned off the area and attached a tow rope to the raft in order to keep it on the beach. During this time we also investigated the various items that washed ashore with the raft, and spoke to visitors who discovered the incident.

After speaking to the Coast Guard, it was determined that we could pull the raft from the water. By this time, the tide was coming in and it helped to free the rafts propeller from the sand. We continued to pull the raft with the patrol truck, but could only get it to move a few feet. As the rest of the park staff arrived to work, we were able to get assistance from the other Rangers and the parks Fire Crew. The Fire Crew hooked on to the raft with their Hummer and we attempted to pull the vessel with both vehicles. After a few different methods, we were able to get the raft out of the tide and to a safe place on the beach. Next, the parks heavy equipment operator arrived with a front loader and was able to carry the raft off the beach.

After speaking with the Coast Guard and examining the content and construction of the raft, we concluded the the raft was an refugee vessel, likely from Cuba. Inside the raft there was several cans of food, water, diesel fuel, and other signs of human occupation. It is unknown where the raft was abandoned, or the circumstances of the situation. The consensus among the investigators was that the raft was abandoned somewhere south of Cape Hatteras, and was carried by the current to the park.

After finishing up the raft incident, we finished up the day in the office. Near the end of my shift, Ranger Malionek and I decided to go to the shooting range to practice a few fundamentals that we had been discussing. During our time at the range, Ranger Malionek allowed me to practice with his .40 caliber duty weapon, a .38 compact handgun, and his AR-15. Throughout our practice session, we worked on basic shooting skills and found a pattern in my shooting. Now that we know where my shots are consistently placed, it will be easier to correct misses and work on improving.

Friday, I returned to the afternoon shift with my supervisor Ranger Krebs. After patrolling the campground and handling a lost and found item, we made our way to the office in order to complete paperwork, reports, and blog work. After eating dinner, we responded to a report of a marine mammal carcass on the beach in Buxton. We found the remains and moved them to a safe location so that the natural resources staff could identify them in the morning. As we were leaving the beach, we found a stuck vehicle and were able to block traffic while a fellow visitor towed out the vehicle. Just as the vehicle left the beach, a call came across the radio for an accident with injuries nearby. We quickly responded to that call. Upon arrival, Fire and EMS had already closed the road, and the Sheriffs Office and Highway Patrol were investigating. Ranger Krebs and I helped direct traffic around the accident, as well as remove the vehicles from the roadway.

After clearing the accident, we returned to the office to finish a DUI report. Tomorrow I will be taking part in Defensive Tactics training at the park.

Thank you for reading! I hope you all have a great week. ProRangers, enjoy your final week at your parks and SLETP!!

Jay Copper

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