Hikers, dog rescued from Aspen ditch
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Aspen firefighters Wednesday rescued two people and a dog stuck in a 400-foot underground culvert near the Sunnyside Trail west of Aspen.
When she saw her black Lab, Glover, struggling against the current near the mouth of a culvert along the Salvation Ditch shortly before 9 a.m., Heidi Baumann, 50, jumped in to rescue the dog. But she slipped on the bottom of the ditch, and 3 feet of rushing water swept her 200 feet along the underground pipe.
“I went to go grab him, and I slipped and I just kept going,” Baumann said. “I thought I was drowning.”
Baumann, a Miami resident who owns a home in Snowmass Village, was hiking with her sister-in-law, Nancy, and her two dogs, as well as Sandy Krohn, 27, a friend from New York.
The sister-in-law called 911 while Krohn jumped into the culvert to see if he could help. He swam the 200 feet of underground pipe to find Baumann, but without knowing what was at the end of the tunnel, the two stayed put in the culvert, awaiting rescue.
“I just braced myself against the wall,” Baumann said. “I was freezing.”
“They had stopped themselves, but they couldn’t come back against the flow,” said Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy Michael Kendrick.
Aspen Fire Protection District volunteers used ropes to navigate the swift water and retrieve the pair.
“Honestly, I cannot tell you how they got us out of there,” Baumann said.
Rescuers estimated that the two were in the water for more than 30 minutes.
Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers carried Baumann down the mountain, and both Baumann and Krohn were treated at Aspen Valley Hospital for possible hypothermia and released.
Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies, Aspen Ambulance, Basalt Fire/Rescue and Aspen police were on scene with support.
“I don’t think we’ve ever done a culvert rescue,” Kendrick said. He stressed the importance of not diving in to rescue someone and making the situation worse.
“Leave the rescue to the professionals,” Kendrick said. “Everything turned out great.”
Baumann said she was sore and scraped, and “a little flipped out” Wednesday afternoon.
She said she is worried there is no grate or cover on the opening of the underground culvert.
“It’s something I never want to do again,” Baumann said. “It sucks you in. … What if it was a kid?”