VAIL — Facing challenges that included steep terrain, an eight-foot snow depth and cold weather, emergency responders successfully rescued two crash victims on Vail Pass on Tuesday. At approximately 1:45 p.m., the Colorado State Patrol, Vail Fire and Emergency Services, Eagle County Paramedic Services, Vail Mountain Rescue and Eagle River Fire Protection District were dispatched to a single vehicle crash on westbound Interstate 70 at milepost 184.
According to authorities, a gold Honda sedan hit a tanker truck and lost control while attempting to merge into the right lane. The Honda continued swerved out of control off the right edge of the road and over the bridge rail, falling 120 feet onto the snow below, according to the report. The vehicle, along with its two occupants, landed in an upright position.
Emergency responders proceeded with rescue operations that took approximately two and a half hours. The two victims were trapped in the vehicle, stable but injured. Due to the nature of the incident and potential risk to responders, the highway was closed for about two hours. Initially, crews set up a rappel line and sent two firefighters down to the accident scene below.
Responders then decided that a “high-angle” rescue — a high-risk, low-frequency rescue strategy used to lower or haul victims and rescuers up or down a vertical rope system — was the best approach. Also, a “low-angle” rope system was used from the sides of the bridge to move the two victims from the car and up to a waiting ambulance. The patients were then transported to Vail Valley Medical Center. Even though the snow was difficult to work in, Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller said it acted as a cushion when the car landed, likely preventing more serious injury or death.
Miller said recent efforts to enhance the department’s technical rescue program paid off in this instance.
The driver, Phuc Read, 61, of Aurora, and her passenger, Quang Luong, 42, of Nebraska suffered serious injuries in the crash, but both were conscious and communicating with emergency workers on scene.
All emergency personnel were cleared from the site at 6:17 p.m.