Entries in Idaho (2)


Man Finds Lost Finger in Trout

Haans Galassi's severed finger was found in a dead trout in Idaho. (Haans Galassi)(BONNER COUNTY, Idaho) -- Fisherman Nolan Calvin and a few friends thought they would end their day on Idaho’s Priest Lake by settling in for a good meal of smoked trout.

Instead, he made a stomach-turning discovery -- a human finger inside a trout’s stomach.

“A friend of mine caught the fish. And as soon as I gutted it, I opened it and saw the human finger,” Calvin told ABC News.

The mysterious pinky finger belonged to a human’s left hand and was nearly perfectly preserved inside the fish, Calvin said.

It had been in the lake for more than two months before Calvin found it more than eight miles away from where it initially separated from its owner.

Thinking quickly, Calvin threw the finger and the fish intestines in a bag, put it all on ice and searched for enough cell phone signal to contact the police. All the while, he hoped that the body it belonged to was a victim of a boating accident, not a homicide.

“A lot of things go through your mind,” Calvin said. “We were hoping it was more of a boat accident than a body.”

“It's just one of those things. … I’ve never found a finger before in my life,” added Calvin, who served in Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield in Iraq.

The finger belonged to 31-year-old Haans Galassi, who on in mid-July was out wakeboarding with friends on Priest Lake when his hand became trapped in the towline that connected his wakeboard to the boat. He wasn’t able to free it in time, and in seconds, the tightened rope severed nearly all of his fingers.

“I pulled my hand out of the water, I looked down and all four fingers were basically gone,” Galassi told ABC News. “It was carnage. It looked like a Braveheart movie. It was just flesh and bone.”

Investigators later were able to trace the finger back to Galassi using fingerprint analysis.

Galassi said there wasn’t a lot of blood and only a manageable amount of pain, but paramedics rushed him to the nearest hospital by helicopter.

Months later, Sgt. Gary Johnston in Bonner County, Idaho, sheriff’s office would be the one to deliver the news to Galassi that at least one of his fingers had finally been found.

“I called him up and said, ‘Well, are you sitting down? Are you ready for this?’” Johnston told ABC News. “He actually had a real good sense of humor about it. He took it really well.”

On the other end of the line, Galassi couldn’t believe that someone had actually caught the fish that had eaten his finger in the deep and sprawling lake.

“I never expected anybody would ever find my fingers,” Galassi said. “I just expected that the fish would eat them. They’re gone. Sayonara. They’re at the bottom of the lake. They’re fish food.”

“I told [Johnston], ‘You guys have probably been looking for a body, haven’t you?’” Galassi said. “That’s what I would think.”

Johnston, a 21-year police force veteran, said the incident is among the strangest things he’s encountered.

“It’s ranking right in there with the top 10, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I’ve still got three more fingers out there that haven’t been caught yet, so I don’t know what’s going to be next.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rural States See Spike in Suicides Following Medicaid Cuts

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Suicide is on the rise in rural America -- nowhere so much as in Western Mountain states like Idaho, Wyoming and New Mexico.  Mental health professionals attribute it in part to cutbacks in Medicaid funding, the recession and the culture of the rural West.

In Idaho, somebody kills him or herself every 35 hours, according to a 2009 report to Idaho's governor by the state's Council on Suicide Prevention. Their report calls suicide "a major public health issue" having a "devastating effect" on Idaho's families, churches, businesses and even schools: 65 students aged 10 and 18 killed themselves in a recent five-year period.

Last week, a county sheriff in Bonneville told the Idaho Falls Post Register that his department was getting more suicide calls than in 2010 -- a year in which 290 Idahoans took their own lives.

Historically, the suicide rate in rural states has been higher than in urban ones.  According to the most recent national data available, Alaska has the highest rate, at 24.6 suicides per 100,000 people.  Next comes Wyoming (23.3), followed by New Mexico (21.1), Montana (21.0) and Nevada (20.2).  Idaho ranks sixth, at 16.5.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Idahoans aged 15-34. Only accidents rank higher.

Kathie Garrett, co-chairman of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention, says the problem has gotten only worse since the recession.

"The poor economy and unemployment -- those put a lot of stress on people's lives," she explains.

To save money, people skip doctor visits and cut back on taking prescribed medications.  Cuts in Medicaid have also reduced the services available to the mentally ill.

"I personally know people who lost Medicaid who've attempted suicide," says Garrett.

Kim Kane, executive director of Idaho's Suicide Prevention Action Network in Idaho says other factors explain the high rate of suicide in Western Mountain states. One is the greater prevalence of guns: In 2010, 63 percent of Idaho suicides involved a firearm, compared with the national average of 50 percent.

She and Garrett also say the West's pride in rugged individualism can prevent people from seeking help.  Their feeling, says Kane, is that they ought to be able to pull themselves up by their mental bootstraps.  Idaho is the only state not to have a suicide-prevention hotline.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio