Winter Park: Skier jumps off cliff on Berthoud Pass; Flight for Life helicopter stops traffic to rescue injured man
March 17, 2008
In Warren Miller ski films, it looks easy, but on Saturday, a leap from a 40-foot cliff below the summit of Berthoud Pass sent an out-of-state backcountry skier to a Denver hospital.U.S. Highway 40 was briefly closed to allow a Flight For Life helicopter to land so the injured man could be transported off the pass.The incident began after 2 p.m. as Brantim Barus, 24, of Florissant, Mo. and his brother began skiing down the Grand County side of Berthoud Pass. When they reached the top of some cliffs, Barus reportedly jumped off the cliff.The kid skied over that 40-foot cliff just like in a Warren Miller movie, but he must have landed on something and sustained a back injury, said Greg Foley of Grand County Search and Rescue. Fortunately, he was with his brother. There were also some people watching from across the valley on Highway 40 and they called for help.According to Foley, the 9-1-1 cell phone caller apparently told the Grand County Sheriffs dispatcher that the victim was right next to the road. Based on that information received at 2:50 p.m., a Grand County Emergency Medical Services ambulance and paramedics were sent to the scene. Also rushing to assist was Grand County Sheriffs Deputy Jon Nelsen. Arriving at the location on U.S. Highway 40 that the 9-1-1 caller had described, the EMS personnel and Deputy Nelsen discovered the victim was actually located several hundred yards away on the other side of the valley. None of them had the necessary skis or snowshoes to negotiate the deep snow and steep slopes to reach and retrieve the injured skier. When the mistake was realized, an immediate dispatch call was made to Grand County Search & Rescue. Within 40 minutes, Foley and seven of his team members arrived with their equipment at the incident command center set up below the Berthoud Pass summit on U.S. Highway 40. They quickly set out across the valley to the victims location. Passersby on the highway with appropriate ski gear also volunteered and joined the Grand County Search & Rescue effort. Within minutes, the rescuers reached the Barnus and his brother. He was conscious, stable and in good spirits, but was definitely a hurting unit, Foley said. The rescuers carefully secured Barus to a backboard and then placed him in a rescue sled. It took several minutes to drag the sled back across the valleys deep snow and up a steep slope to the highway where Barus was placed in the waiting EMS ambulance.To speed the victim to medical assistance, A Flight For Life helicopter from Denver had been called in. To allow it to land, an improvised helicopter landing zone had been set up right on the highway atop Berthoud Pass. Once the victim was placed inside the ambulance, it was rushed to Berthouds summit. When it arrived there, Deputy Nelsen and other rescuers who were waiting began halting traffic both ways on the roadway.As soon as landing zone was safe, the Flight For Life helicopter descended from the sky, and the injured man was loaded aboard. The helicopter then took off and flew directly to St. Anthonys Central Hospital in Denver. The roadway over the pass was closed for about 10 minutes.We got it done, Foley said. We appreciated the extra hands from those passersby who helped us get the victim back up to the road.