Injured teenager rescued from tough terrain |

Injured teenager rescued from tough terrain

Matt Terrell
Vail CO, Colorado

BASALT, Colorado ” A search and rescue team carried a 14-year-old girl with neck injuries down a steep and rocky hiking trail in the Holy Cross Wilderness near Carter Lake late Thursday night and early Friday morning.

Rescuers had first planned on flying the girl out by helicopter but couldn’t get her safely to the landing zone by nightfall, and there were no helicopter pilots trained to fly with night vision technology available.

The girl was instead carried by stretcher on the difficult two-and-a-half mile hike on the trail connecting Henderson Park and Frying Pan Road. At around 2 a.m., rescue crews made it to the bottom, and the injured girl was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital by Pitkin County Ambulance.

The girl was treated and released Friday. Overall, the rescue mission lasted around 12 hours, said Dan Smith with the Vail Mountain Rescue Group.

The girl has been hiking with around 10 people in a church group since Saturday. She took a bad fall near the bottom of a scree, or broken rock, field and complained of severe neck pain and a sprained ankle, Smith said. An adult in the group made a 911 call by satellite phone for help at around 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

A Flight for Life helicopter out of Summit County was airborne by 3:25 p.m. and landed on Savage Peak at 3:53 p.m., about a mile from the victim.

An onboard nurse examined the girl and decided more crew members were needed to safely carry the girl to the landing zone. The helicopter made several back-and-forth trips to bring in more people to help carry the girl, and had to stop to refuel.

In the meantime, night was falling, and soon, there wasn’t enough light for a routine helicopter rescue. A National Guard pilot trained to use night vision was available for a brief time, but night pilots are allowed to fly only so many hours a day, and the rescue crew, facing very difficult terrain, couldn’t get the girl to the landing area in time, Smith said.

The team first thought they would wait at the landing site until dawn for a helicopter rescue, but the girl was very cold, so they decided to take her down the trail.

At the bottom, a Pitkin County ambulance took the girl to the hospital and two trucks from Vail Mountain Rescue Group met the rest of the hikers.

“It was a very successful rescue,” Smith said. “Everybody worked together, and there was a sense of community.”

Agencies involved in the rescue include Eagle County Sheriff’s Department, Vail Mountain Rescue, Western Eagle County Search and Rescue, Flight for Life, National Guard High Altitude Training Center, Eagle County Ambulance District, Vail Valley Medical Center, Aspen Valley Hospital and Pitkin County Ambulance.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or

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