GRAND COUNTY, Colo. -- A 78-year-old man injured when his vehicle careened down Berthoud Pass was still recovering in the hospital Thursday night.
The vehicle went off of Highway 40 and plunged about 380 feet down the mountainside on Saturday night.
Seven agencies were involved in the rescue, including the East Grand County Fire Protection District, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado State Patrol, and Grand County Search and Rescue
It was just after 6 p.m. Saturday when 78-year-old Bill Newell made a frantic call to 911.
“Yes, I've had a bad accident going down Berthoud Pass toward Winter Park," he told dispatchers.
"I think I’m about three-quarters the way down the pass. I went off the road and I’m way down in the trees. I have lots of bleeding."
His family said Newell spent the day watching his grandson ride in his high school mountain bike race and was headed back to Granby when he veered off the road at one of the most dangerous points on Berthoud Pass.
“There aren’t many spots on this pass where you can go this far down an embankment. Most everything has guardrails,” Grand County sheriff's Lt. Dan Mayer said.
“We didn’t know where the car was. You couldn’t see it coming up or coming over from this side,” said Zachary Holm of the East Grand County Fire Protection District.
Dispatchers used Phase II 911 to pinpoint the exact location of Newell’s cellphone.
He was approximately 380 feet down the mountain, his vehicle stuck in rough terrain of rocks and trees.
Rescuers made their way down.
“You’re trying to find a safe way down. There’s a lot of big boulders, scree, which is loose rocks downed trees,” Holm said.
Three hours after their efforts began, Newell was pulled up the mountain.
“This one was probably one of the steepest and most technical ones we’ve had in at least a year that I can think of,” Mayer said.
“He had a rough ride. He’s really lucky to be alive."
“This is as close to a miracle as I’ve ever seen, honestly. He called. He saved his own life. Yeah, he was able to call 911,” said East Grand County Fire Protection District firefighter Adam Kaufman.
A successful rescue that crews say they don’t want to have to do again.
“We’re all human, accidents happen. Just be careful, be aware of your surroundings,” Holm said.
The Colorado State Patrol is investigating the crash and is trying to determine if a medical emergency might have been a cause.
Family members said Newell is still in the hospital with a cracked vertebrae, four broken ribs, a broken wrist, and lots of scratches and bruises, but he is expected to be OK.
Thursday at the scene of the accident, crews were trying to get Newell’s vehicle out of the trees where it ended up.