Boy well after being trapped by boulder
VAIL – When the boulder rolled onto William McCann’s foot, all the 16-year-old could think of is what his football coach would think. McCann had a lot of time to ponder the question. The Leander, Tex. teen spent about 15 hours in the Holy Cross Wilderness trapped under a boulder while his Outward Bound group and rescuers worked to free him during the early hours of Thursday morning. It took 12 Vail Mountain Rescue members, armed with high-pressure air bags on loan from the Eagle River Fire Protection District, to move the 5-foot by 5-foot boulder off the teenager’s foot. Once freed, his foot looked like a “pancake,” according to one doctor. “It was as flat as my hand,” McCann said from his hospital room at the Vail Valley Medical Center. Doctors say the boy suffered no broken bones and will likely recover completely from the injuries to his foot. He is expected to be released today. McCann said his looking forward to playing middle linebacker on his high school football team this fall.
McCann was bouldering with his Outward Bound group Wednesday afternoon near Blodgett Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness southwest of Camp Hale. Several in his group had already climbed up the rocks ahead of him. It was around 12:30 p.m. and he had just hoisted himself up on two boulders when the one under his right hand moved over his foot. “It just crunched,” he said. “This rock had to be at least 1,000 pounds.”His companions tried to lift the rock, using different angles and pulley systems before finding another Outward Bound patrol leader with a cell phone, he said. Caught in the middle of the wilderness, that group leader had to hike around to get reception for a 911 call.At that point, nearly seven hours had passed. McCann began to wonder if his foot would have to be amputated. The call came in just as Vail Mountain Rescue were completing a rescue in the Gore Creek area near Vail. A 60-year-old woman fell and cut her leg so severely, rescuers were called, said Kim Andree, spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. Because they were nearby, the rescuers were flown in by the Colorado Army National Guard and were able to meet up with McCann within 30 minutes, she said.
Dr. Rich Franciose went out with the group, expecting that amputation might be the only way to free him. But the rescue group was able to use high-pressure airbags typically used by fire departments to lift the boulder off McCann by 3 a.m. Thursday. McCann suffered only soft-tissue damage to the front part of his foot, doctors said. In the hospital, McCann wore only a walking cast.”It’s remarkable …,” said Dr. Randy Viola. “It looked like a pancake.”Outward Bound staff are not required to carry cell phones with them, but the company may re-consider that policy, said Brad Mushovic, the vice present of marketing and sales for Outward Bound.Despite the amount of time it took rescuers to free him, McCann said he never panicked. His companions started comparing the ordeal to what happened to Aron Ralston, the Aspen-based climber who sawed his own arm off after becoming trapped under a boulder in Utah.
McCann was in too much pain already to consider doing the same, he said. “I just thought about the worst,” he said. “I also thought about the best.”Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado