By CRAIG MEDRED
Anchorage Daily News
October 13, 2006
What he'd seen had been scary enough without the noise - the four-wheeler tumbling downhill, bouncing and then flying into the air only to land rack down on the leg of 43-year-old Kevin Kidder.
"I knew it was bad," Kosterman said. "The whole rig was standing up on end on his leg, and then it fell over."
Only hours after setting out on a moose hunt in late September, all thoughts of hunting were gone. All Kosterman could think about now was what he needed to do to save Kidder.
"I tried to stay as calm as possible for him," Kosterman said, "but my brain was spinning."
Kosterman scrambled uphill to the longtime family friend. Kidder's leg was mangled and bent obscenely, but there was no serious bleeding.
As a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force back in Alaska on leave from a base in Japan, Kosterman, 29, had taken an annual first-aid refresher course. His training had taught him what he had to do in situations like this: stay calm, assess the situation and treat what you can.
Quickly, he checked Kidder for other injuries, and then tried to make him comfortable. Clearly, there was no way the older man was going to ride his four-wheeler almost 20 miles back to the trailhead.
And if there was going to be any hope of getting help to him before dark, Kosterman was going to have to act quickly.
"I treated him for shock," Kosterman said, and made sure he had shelter to keep off the pounding rain.
Then Kosterman jumped on his own four-wheeler and headed for Wolf Point, several miles down the Knik River valley. Cell-phone reception was available there.
All Kidder could do was hang on, wait and pray.
"It was getting dark and raining like crazy," he said. "(And) I was in a tremendous amount of pain."
Without what Kidder described as the "really thin but tough," 8-by-10-foot tarp he carried in his emergency kit, he would have been vulnerable to the weather.
With the tarp rigged for protection, he was comfortable enough that he pulled out the saw from his emergency kit and started cutting logs for a splint while Kosterman was on the trail pursuing help.
When medical personnel finally arrived, Kidder said, they thought he'd done a good enough job of splinting that they didn't even bother to put on their own.
A retired airman now living in Chugiak, Kidder once taught wilderness-survival skills for the U.S. Air Force. He knew a lot about accidents from the rescuers' perspective but never thought he'd end up a victim - especially not as the result of a four-wheeler crash in such familiar territory so close to home.
"I was in a tremendous amount of pain. The doctor (later) described it as taking your windshield and hitting it with a hammer.
Kidder was talking earlier this month from his bed at Providence Medical Center, where he'd been for five days. Doctors had to put a stainless-steel rod in his leg to hold together the shattered pieces of bone.
He's expected to be on his back for another six weeks. After that, he faces two to three months of rehabilitation.
And yet, he considers himself lucky.
"I'm glad I had somebody with me," Kidder said.
He is equally glad Kosterman had a cell phone. Kosterman was able to call 911 and get Alaska State Troopers to send Providence's LifeGuard helicopter and crew.
With night coming on and heavy rain falling, Kidder used a flare to paint the sky.
"It was getting dark and raining like crazy," he said. "I heard what I thought was a helicopter, and I saw what I thought was a flashing light."
He aimed his laser flare in that direction, "and that helicopter turned right on me," he said.
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