In a driving snowstorm during the early morning hours of January 6 a small group of OMR Team members headed up Highway 550 for a day of cat-skiing in Durango. About five miles up the road, riders in the lead vehicle noticed what appeared to be fresh vehicle tracks leading off the edge of a precipitous portion of the highway. Although it was too dark to see anything in the gorge 400-feet below, further investigation showed that a large vehicle had indeed gone over the edge in the last few minutes. A little history in this exact spot (see below) also created a high index of suspiscion for some of the Team members on scene.
In what may be a record incident response for the OMRT, this makeshift group sprung into action in organizing a search and rescue. A 911 callout was immediately made, and using equipment carried in the vehicles on-hand, an OMRT responder was rapelling into the gorge within a few minutes. Contact was soon made with the driver of a semi-truck 400-feet below. Amazingly, the driver had suffered only minor injuries. In the meantime, the rest of the Team was enroute with a full complement of rescue equipment. The driver was extricated from the vehicle, fully-packaged as a precautionary measure, and lifted out of the gorge utilizing low angle rope rescue measures. The driver was then transferred to Ouray County EMS, transported to Montrose Memorial Hospital, and released later that day.
A happy ending was enjoyed by all as the initial group still made it to Durango for some excellent powder skiing!
Photos courtesy of Jack Brauer – Mountain Photographer :