Man rescued after vehicle careens off side of Berthoud Pass
One Florida driver got a harsh lesson in just how dangerous high country roads can be Saturday after careening off the side of Highway 40 on Berthoud Pass and tumbling down the mountainside approximately 400 feet.
Officials from the Colorado State Patrol confirmed at around 6:08 p.m. Saturday afternoon a black 2000 Ford Explorer driven by a 78-year-old man carrying a Florida driver’s license was traveling on Highway 40 on Berthoud Pass, near milepost 238, when his vehicle went off the side of the road. The Explorer went over a guardrail located near a large pullout on Berthoud, above the second switchback from the bottom on the Grand County side of the pass. After going over the edge the Explorer tumbled down the side of the mountain roughly 400 feet before coming to a stop in a collection of trees and rocks.
Officials from East Grand Fire District said the vehicle was not visible to passing motorists from the highway above and the accident was not reported by any eyewitnesses. The driver of the vehicle was eventually able to place a 911 emergency call to local dispatchers, providing them with his general location.
First responders, including Grand County EMS, responded to the scene and began looking for the vehicle. According to East Grand Fire’s Chief Todd Holzwarth a responding ambulance spotted faint tracks Saturday evening that led searchers to the Explorer. From there a Colorado State Trooper climbed down the steep hillside and made contact with the man.
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The location of the Explorer on the mountainside put the vehicle roughly 300 feet from the road below. Several of the first responders who assisted with extricating the driver of the vehicle climbed up to the vehicle from below. The driver was the only person in the vehicle at the time of the incident.
With darkness quickly falling and temperatures falling in Middle Park individuals from East Grand Fire, Grand County Search and Rescue, EMS, Grand County’s Sheriff’s office, and Colorado State Patrol began working to uphaul the male from the wreckage below, staging on the side of Highway 40 near where the vehicle went off the road. The first responders utilized a capstan winch system and multiple ropes in the rescue process, requiring a knot pass during the process.
After uphauling the man to a waiting ambulance he was transported to a waiting helicopter and was then flown to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Lakewood. State Patrol officials stated the man was reported as having “serious bodily injury” at the time of his medical transport.
The vehicle the man was driving was left on the mountainside after the rescue operation as additional plans are made to recover the vehicle at a later date.
Oddly enough as first responders climbed up the scree hill below the Explorer to reach the injured driver they discovered another vehicle, previously abandonded, in the trees not far below their intended destination. Officials from East Grand Fire said they were unaware of the vehicle until Saturday’s operation and did not know how long ago the vehicle was abandonded on the side of the mountain, nor were they aware of any incidents that would have led to the vehicle’s placement.
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