BERTHOUD PASS, Colo. -- A 78-year-old driver was seriously injured after tumbling 400 feet off the edge of Berthoud Pass on Saturday, and his surprisingly calm and lucid 911 call for help has been released.
The crash happened about 4 p.m. near a large turnout area above a switchback on U.S. 40 on the Winter Park side of the pass, the East Grand Fire Protection District No. 4 said.
The driver’s SUV went over the edge and stopped in trees and rocks, officials said.
The driver and the vehicle were nearly invisible from the turnout, and no one saw the accident so it wasn’t reported, officials said.
The man was able to make a 911 call to provide the general location of where he was at.
During the call, the driver told the 911 operator that he had "a bad accident going down Berthoud Pass toward Winter Park."
He estimates his vehicle was "about three-quarters the way down the pass. I went off the road and I'm way down in the trees."
When the operator asks if the driver is hurt or injured, he responds "Uh, I don't think so," but later adds, "I have lots of bleeding."
A full transcript of the emergency call depicts the seriousness of the accident and the steady responses from both people on the call:
Operator: 911 What’s your emergency?
Driver: Yes, uh, I’ve had a bad accident, uh, going down Berthoud Pass, going towards, uh, Winter Park
Operator: OK, is anybody injured there?
Driver: I’m about three-quarters of the way down Berthoud Pass. I went off the road and I’m way down in the trees
Operator: OK, are you injured, sir?
Driver: Excuse me?
Operator: Are you injured? Are you hurt?
Driver: Uh, I’m not sure
Operator: OK, alright, um, is your..do you think your car is visible from the roadway?
Driver: Um, I don’t think so.
Operator: OK, I can see where you are. I’ve got you on my map here.
Operator: What kind of a vehicle and what color is it?
Driver: It’s a, uh, it’s a green Ford Explorer, uh 2000.
Operator: Are you in the vehicle or were you ejected?
Driver: No, I’m in the vehicle
Operator: Are you the only person in the vehicle?
Driver: Yes, I am.
Operator: In vehicle, OK. Did the airbags go off?
Driver: Uh, yes, but I’m in the back seat
Operator: Been deployed, OK. Alright, um, what is your name?
Operator: OK, and I’ll get your cell phone number off of here *redacted*
Driver: That’s correct
Operator: OK, and you don’t have any obvious, you don’t have any bleeding, you don’t have any pain?
Driver: Oh yeah, yeah, I have lots of bleeding.
Operator: Oh you have lots of bleeding? OK, alright. Um, I’m going to send rescue efforts that way and ambulance and fire and we will just watch for you. Were you going toward Denver or toward Winter Park when you went off the road?
Driver: I was going toward Winter Park
Operator: Towards Winter Park, so you went off on the right-hand side?
Driver: That’s correct.
Operator: On the right-hand side, OK. Hang in there, I’m going to get some help to you, OK?
Driver: Thank you, bye.
Operator: OK, uh-huh
The 911 operator was able to locate the car on a map and send rescue efforts to the scene.
A Grand County ambulance found faint tracks leading to the edge where the vehicle went over.
A Colorado State Patrol trooper responded, and climbed down the steep hillside and found the driver.
Paramedics and firefighters worked to pull the man back to the top of the pass. The rescue took about four hours to complete.
The man was flown to a Front Range hospital with serious injuries.
In all, 25 responders were at the scene to help in the rescue.