An injured hiker who spent two days stranded in the Colorado backcountry was rescued after she was spotted by a tourist aboard a passing train.
The hiker, a New Mexico resident whose name authorities have not released, was on a day hike along the Colorado Trail near Deer Park on Sunday when she became lost and attempted to scramble up a cliff face. She slipped and fell an estimated 90 feet, breaking her leg and sustaining a concussion in the tumble. She later told rescuers that she had lost consciousness after the fall, and then spent the night in the backcountry with clothing that was not suited to cold weather.
She told rescuers that she crawled to the banks of the Animas River in an attempt to flat anyone traveling on the train tracks, which are located on the opposite bank of the river.
On the first Silverton-bound train on Monday morning, a woman aboard a train car saw the distressed hiker waving frantically. Railroad superintendent Darren Whitten told the Herald that the hiker was in a place that was only visible from a very limited, specific angle. The passenger alerted the train staff, who stopped the train.
Delton Henry was working in the inspection motor car behind the train, and he stopped to help the hiker. Two railroad workers who were also medical professionals in Colorado’s La Plata County crossed the chest-deep river to assess her injuries and stay with her until a team from Silverton Medical Rescue arrived. A call to San Juan County Search and Rescue revealed that she had been overdue, and her parents had been looking for her.
Rescuing the stricken hiker wasn’t easy. The team tried to access her via the railroad, but reaching her proved too challenging from that side of the riverbank. Instead, a CareFlight helicopter flew in the team, which packaged the hiker on a backboard and sent her on a rope system across the Animas River. A waiting helicopter then carried her from Deer Park to Montrose Hospital.
The railroad has a small diesel train stationed in Silverton reserved for emergencies, which transported the SAR crew out of the area after the hiker was rescued, according to the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management.
Speaking to the Herald, DeAnne Gallegos, San Juan County’s emergency management spokesperson, said that it was “an amazing feat” that the hiker had managed to survive a night out in the cold, and that she was able to reach the tracks with her injuries.
“Our team thought that was pretty miraculous,” Gallegos said. “And that she was aware the train was still running, and managed with a broken leg to crawl to the bank of the river to try and signal them.”
Rescuers said the woman was in “pretty rough shape” after her night in the backcountry, and that her broken leg was visibly offset.
As for the woman who spotted the missing hiker—the railroad refunded her the cost of the trip.