NJ woman to be billed for ‘preventable’ hiking rescue
If you're going to go hiking in New Hampshire, you'd better be prepared — unless you want to foot the bill for your own rescue.
That is the lesson learned by Aleeza Shaikh, a 26-year-old Jersey City resident who will likely be charged for the cost of a rescue crew that helped her down a trail in the White Mountains late Sunday afternoon.
Shaikh was hiking with a friend on the Liberty Springs Trail in the Franconia Notch State Park when she became "distressed" and unable to complete the hike around 5:20 p.m., according to New Hampshire Fish & Game.
Another group of hikers found Shaikh lying on the trail and helped Shaikhr continue the trip.
A conservation officer and a small rescue party from the Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue met the group on the trail just before 6 p.m. and accompanied them to the parking lot. They arrived without any problems by 7 p.m.
Shaikh was prepared for a day hike but did not have gear to spend the night.
"Due to inaccurate planning and equipment of the hiker, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department will be recommending that Shaikh be billed for this preventable rescue," the agency said in a statement.
Prepare for your outdoor adventure in New Hampshire
Fish & Game Lt. Bob Mancini did not know how much Shaikh would be billed. He said the amount would be based on a number of factors including the amount of personnel involved, how long the rescue took and what equipment was needed.
"These particular situations that could be prevented. We are fair and consistent in how we decided when to bill and when not to bill and if people have made negligent or reckless choices that have resulted in a rescue then they get charged for the cost of the rescue," Mancini told New Jersey 101.5.
Fish & Game responds to nearly 200 rescues a year.
Pay for protection while hiking in New Hampshire
Shaikh also could have purchased a Hike Safe Card, priced at $25 per person and $35 per family, which protects the purchaser from any liability to repay rescue costs unless negligence is determined to have been involved.
"People that come to the state of New Hampshire and buy Hike Safe Cards and are prepared and take measures to self rescue you don't get billed," Mancini said. "Somebody is ill-equipped, doesn't have headlamps, doesn't have a map, doesn't know where they are and needs assistance down the mountain after dark, that's always going to be billed."
NH Fish and Game is funded by fishing and hunting licenses and federal funds. It does not receive state funding.
Hiking the White Mountains can be "extremely challenging" and quickly become dangerous, especially in winter.
"People often underestimate the time required to complete a mountain hike in snowy and icy conditions. It is also easy to be deceived by trail distances, as hiking four miles on flat ground does not require nearly as much energy as hiking four miles in steep terrain," the agency says on its website.