Sunday, July 19, 2009

We'll Save You But Its Gonna Cost You

Is it just me or does this seem a little strange?

A Massachusetts teenager who spent three nights alone on Mount Washington in April after he sprained an ankle and veered off marked trails has been fined more than $25,000 for the cost of his rescue.
Acerno said he believes Mason's fine is the largest ever sought under a 9-year-old New Hampshire law that allows lost hikers and climbers to be charged for rescue costs. Mason's rescue was particularly expensive because the helicopters the state typically used were unavailable, and a helicopter from Maine had to be brought in, Acerno said.

Now, granted the kid screwed up, but how can he be charged for something he didn't ask for? I'm willing to bet he didn't call up the state and say, "Hey, you know I'm lost. Any chance you give me a lift? Just hone in on my cell signal. Oh, by the way, the terrain's a bit rough. I recommend sending out a chopper." If you take your car to a mechanic and say, "Change the oil," and you come back to find out he also replaced your carburetor and now wants to charge you for it. You didn't ask for it!

One could argue that the kid should have turned down the rescue if he didn't want to pay for it. Can't you see the headline on that? "Lost Teen Turns Down Rescue Because of Cost" But that is just ludicrous.

Of course this stuff is expensive, but there has to be a better way to pay for it than to "fine" the person who was rescued. Private donations? Taxes on people using parks? I don't know what the solution is, but I know this one is not right. In more ways than one.