Contact: San Miguel County Undersheriff Eric Berg 970-728-5081
or San Miguel Country Sheriff Reserve PIO Susan Lilly 970-369-8622
November 18, 2015 -- (San Miguel County, CO) – A massive operation with multiple agencies, dozens of people, ten snowmobiles, and a medical helicopter ended with the successful rescue and medical transport of a seriously injured Norwood woman involved in a snowmobile accident Tuesday afternoon in the Beaver Park backcountry.
The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office led the six-hour mission (launched at 1pm) that included approximately five Search and Rescue volunteers, a dozen personnel from the Sheriff’s office, five guides from “Telluride Outside” and four members of the Norwood Snowmobile Club.
The 64 year-old Norwood woman the snowmobile she was driving came to a sudden stop after hitting a ditch. She was ejected and sustained serious blunt force trauma when she slammed into the snowmobile’s handlebars. Her husband, who was driving a separate snowmobile, heard what were Telluride Outside snowmobile guides in the distance, and drove his snowmobile an estimated eight miles to ask them for assistance.
Multiple obstacles including lack of communication, location difficulties, deep snow and weather issues and impending darkness complicated the mission.
San Miguel Country Undersheriff Eric Berg led the operation. “We were dealing with a remote location with no cell or radio service, so our initial primary issue was getting an accurate location of our patient,” Berg said.
Two Search and Rescue (SAR) teams, each including a paramedic, were dispatched via snowmobiles in an attempt to rescue the critically injured patient. One, with assistance from the Norwood Snowmobile Club, entered from Beef Trail Road, south of Norwood. The other entered from Fall Creek Road on the east side of Lone Cone where Telluride Fire Protection District EMS personnel were also staged. Initial attempts to launch a medical helicopter from Montrose and Grand Junction were unsuccessful as personnel cited weather issues.
Snowmobile guides with Telluride Outside on scene travelled miles, multiple times to obtain cell service to communicate with Sheriff’s Deputies and were able to provide what turned out to be the best GPS coordinates for the patient’s location. The guides also built a makeshift shelter and a fire in an effort to shield the patient from strong winds and keep her warm.
Sheriff Deputy Chris White, who was Incident Command called their volunteer efforts critically instrumental. “Their improvised medical care was outstanding, and we can’t thank them enough.”
Ultimately Tristate Careflight out of Durango launched a helicopter, and landed in deep snow in close proximity to the patient. The flight crew established patient contact just before 3pm. SAR personnel, after traveling an hour, at times in nearly four feet of snow, arrived minutes later and assisted the flight crew in packaging and transporting the patient to and loading the patient into the Careflight helicopter where she was stabilized and flown to Mercy Hospital in Durango.
San Miguel County Deputies emphasized how much they valued the efforts of all who participated in the mission. “The teamwork of all of these volunteers, many who had never worked together, was incredible,” Berg said.
The San Miguel Sheriff’s Office, located in Telluride, Colorado and established in 1883, serves 7,800 residents and countless visitors across the 1,288 square miles of San Miguel County. Sheriff Bill Masters has been serving as the county’s elected Sheriff since 1980.