Learning Brought to Life
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

A train passenger saw a woman waving for help. It was a hiker who'd been missing

Rescuers had to rig a rope system to bring the injured hiker across the river to the parked helicopter.
Ben Thuss (@cbt3)
Rescuers had to rig a rope system to bring the injured hiker across the river to the parked helicopter.

An injured hiker near Silverton, Colo., was rescued earlier this month after a train passenger spotted her from the window. She was frantically waving on the other side of a river, having just spent two days trapped in the wilderness with a broken leg.

The rider alerted the crew of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge diesel engine No. 461, according to the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management. They then notified the train inspector, Delton Henry, who was in a motor car behind them.

Henry was able to stop and communicate with the woman on the opposite bank of the Animas River, which was freezing cold and moving quickly.

The hiker, a woman from New Mexico in her 20s, had been missing for two days, the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management wrote on Facebook. She said she'd intended to go on a day hike, but ended up falling 90 feet down a cliff-face while trying to take pictures.

She lost consciousness for an unknown amount of time, she reportedly told rescuers. Despite her concussion and a badly broken leg, she was able to crawl to the bank of the river to try to flag down trains. She had no emergency supplies with her, or suitable clothing to spend the night outdoors.

Emergency management spokeswoman DeAnne Gallegos told the Durango Harald that there'd been a cold snap while the woman was trapped in the wilderness. The hiker described spending daylight hours trying to get the attention of passing trains and, at night, would tuck herself into a nearby cliff face in an attempt to stay warm.

Henry got in touch with D&SNG Superintendent Darren Whitten, who called to request help from search and rescue. The 911 operator who picked up said the hiker's family had been looking for her.

Nick and Kylah Breeden, who are married, were the engineer and fireman on the next train to pass by the location. The train's 327 passengers waited on the track as the couple crossed the river to examine the woman's injuries and bring emergency supplies, blankets and a radio for communication.

A CareFlight helicopter was required to evacuate the woman, but couldn't access the site where she was stuck. The rescue crew having stepped in, Nick left with the train but Kylah, a trained paramedic, stayed with the hiker.

Henry helped shuttle rescuers from the helicopter's landing site to the patient. They rigged a rope system to carry her across the river on a backboard. They were then able to use a gurney to transport her to the parked helicopter. She was transported to Montrose Hospital.

D&SNG compensated the train tickets for the passenger who saw the injured hiker and her husband.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Halisia Hubbard