Teen airlifted from Weminuche Wilderness, SW ColoradoJune 29 2004 at 9:26 AM
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Response to June, 2004 Rescues
By Dan D'Ambrosio
Herald Staff Writer
A 17-year-old boy fell while hiking down a steep trail in the Weminuche Wilderness on Sunday and had to be airlifted to Mercy Medical Center in Durango.
Butch Knowlton, director of emergency preparedness for La Plata County, said the boy fell on Columbine Pass, suffering an injury to a "previous medical condition" that required him to be airlifted from the Chicago Basin area. Knowlton couldn't specify what the previous medical condition was.
The boy was with a group of about 15 other people, one of whom was able to reach 911 on a satellite telephone. Knowlton said the helicopter - Air Care One from San Juan Regional Hospital in Farmington - could land only within about a mile of the injured boy because of the rugged terrain and high altitude.
Knowlton said he had to clear the landing with the U.S. Forest Service because it was in a wilderness area. He said he and members of the Forest Service were able to zero in on the location of the hikers after he talked to the group member on the satellite phone.
"He was able to describe the area," Knowlton said. "From experience, I knew pretty close to where he was, but because of the terrain and altitude, the helicopter wasn't able to land where the victim was, but had to land in a safer area farther down the canyon about a mile."
Knowlton said the trail the group was on zigzags down a steep talus slope. He said crew members from the helicopter were able to reach the boy and begin treating him, helping other members of the group carry him back to the helicopter.
The 911 call came in at 2:54 p.m. Sunday, Knowlton said, and the helicopter arrived on the scene about 45 minutes later. He said the group carrying the injured boy reached the helicopter about 7:30 p.m. and that it took about 20 minutes to fly the boy to Mercy.
"It's some of the roughest terrain in the United States," said Knowlton of the rescue area.
Officials didn't release the boy's identity, or the names of other members of the group.