PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A year after a young woman tragically lost her life in an accident on the Oregon coast, her family is organizing a crowdfund campaign to better prepare coastal fire departments for rescue missions.
“We’re doing this in memory of our daughter because she was such a giving person and a loving person,” said Colleen Casey, the mother of 21-year-old Michelle Casey, who lost her life on May 19, 2019 after accidentally falling more than 100 feet near the Neahkahnie Mountain Viewpoint area near Manzanita. “But we’re also doing this for other families because we don’t want anyone else to ever get that phone call.”
Casey has organized a GoFundMe campaign to help Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue and Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District with equipment and training to better prepare rescue workers in the future. As of this writing, they still need about $11,000 of their $30,000 of the funds.
The money will help rescue workers procure light weight rescue systems that can be hauled via backpack, and will be called named “Casey Kits,” in honor of Michelle. The money will also secure training, replace outdated 20-year-old equipment that Cannon Beach Fire is still using, and provide a tactical drone requested by Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue.
Michelle had been taking pictures with a friend beyond the retaining wall of the viewpoint when she slipped and fell. Though a tree stopped her from falling into the ocean, she was badly hurt.
Despite intense efforts by Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue to perform a rope rescue of Michelle, who was eventually airlifted to Legacy Emanuel Hospital, she died of her injuries later that evening. Michelle also saved two lives that day by being an organ donor.
“Rope rescue is a very technical skill and requires a lot of training to perfect that skill,” Cannon Beach Fire Chief Marc Reckmann said in a video he posted to the Go Fund Me page about why more training, in addition to the training rescue workers already have, would help with a rescue mission like this in the future.
In addition, Nehalem Bay Fire Chief Chris Beswick said aerial drones have rapidly become intrinsic to search and rescue. “They allow us to search a wide area very quickly and also see places where we otherwise might not be able to get eyes on.”
Casey said her daughter Michelle was one of the most giving people she ever knew, having studied kinesiology at Oregon State University because she wanted to help people.
“I know Michelle would be thrilled about this. This is exactly the type of thing that she would want to be involved in if she were still alive.”