November 5, 2017:
On November 5, 2017, at 1315 hours AVSAR Leadership was contacted by Deputy Chris Lavery advising that Costilla County Sheriff’s Office was asking for assistance in the search of a missing hunter in the Rito Seco area. The male subject, in his early fifties, had missed his rendezvous time with the rest of his group and had no known back country experience. He had a small survival kit, unknown contents, and was not familiar with the area. He was 5’7”, 180 pounds, had a goatee and was wearing blue jeans. The last contact his fellow hunters had with him was at 0600 hours when they separated that morning. AVSAR Leadership contacted Deputy Williams with CCSO and discussed what was needed from our team. At 1332 hours we sent a page to our team and began the process of a mutual aid callout. It was discussed whether Costilla could use our horse team but it was decided the terrain would be too steep. Our SAR dog in training, Blink, was en route with one of his handlers. At 1357 hours AVSAR Leadership, via CSP Dispatch, contacted Deputy Williams and apprised him of our teams ETA and that we would be bringing a SAR dog. At 1425 hours AVSAR received a call from CSP Dispatch that the hunter had been located near San Luis. AVSAR team members were advised to stand down.
October 20, 2017:
On October 20, 2017, at 1839 hours AVSAR Leadership was contacted by Deputy Chris Lavery advising that CSP Dispatch had been contacted by a female subject who stated she had lost her way coming back down the trail at Zapata Falls. Her cell phone coordinates were showing she was close to the trail. Between Deputy Lavery and an Alamosa PD officer, who was assisting him with another call, they gave her directions. She called dispatch again saying she still was unsure of her location. Her cell phone coordinates were now showing her between the creek and the trail. Deputy Lavery instructed her to head west and follow the creek down, and advised her to contact either himself or dispatch as soon as she made it down safely. AVSAR Leadership stood by, making a plan of action until they heard further. At 1909 hours Deputy Lavery advised she had located the trail and was making her way back to the parking lot.
September 9, 2017:
On September 9, 2017, at 1713 hours AVSAR Leadership was contacted by Deputy Chris Lavery advising that the late Barney Cruz IV’s tent and contents had been located near Lake Como by the Forest Service. They advised they had found a journal and a set of truck keys inside the tent that confirmed it belonged to Barney. They took possession of the journal and keys but were unable to bring the remaining gear down due to the ranger being on a motorcycle. Deputy Coroner Harry Alejo asked if AVSAR would be able to assist in retrieving Barney’s belongings. AVSAR contacted one of the 4×4 Specialists and another team member and arranged for them to drive up Como Road the following morning. The two members met at the trailhead at 0730 hours and were back down by 1230 hours, handing over the tent and contents to Deputy Lavery for transport to the coroner’s office.
August 16, 2017:
On August 16, 2017 at 1600 hours AVSAR Leadership received a call from Barry Mitchell with CSRB regarding a request from Gunnison County. They were asking for SAR members to assist on a cold search for a male subject that had been missing for several weeks and was said to be suicidal. Gunnison County had located his vehicle and was trying to set up a search for 0600 hours Saturday, August 19, 2017. AVSAR advised Barry that we had our annual fundraiser taking place on Saturday, as well as a REACH Air Medical training Sunday morning and would not be able to assist. AVSAR later received word that the subject was found and taken to the coroner.
August 15, 2017:
On August 15, 2017 at 1428 hours AVSAR Leadership was contacted by Dan Wheeler with the Saguache County SAR team advising they had two subjects stuck on a ledge in the Kit Carson area. This information had been received by a spot device. They were looking for technical rescuers and currently had Custer County SAR en route via Flight For Life as a hasty team and had a call into Western State SAR as well. Dan advised he would call back soon as he was getting an incoming call from Western State. At 1453 hours Dan called advising Western State was able to respond and AVSAR could stand down for the time being. He also said he would call with an update. At 1810 hours he advised that Custer County SAR’s hasty team had reached the subjects and a Saguache County SAR member was assisting from below. They were lowering the subjects by two rope lengths and then all would hike out together.
August 12, 2017:
At approximately 1107 hours AVSAR Leadership received a call from Deputy Chris Lavery regarding a possible suicidal female subject in the Zapata Falls area. He advised he had been contacted by Sgt. Sam Coffman who stated she was going to drowned herself in the lake. Deputy Lavery and AVSAR Leadership discussed their options. Due to the fact that none of the AVSAR team members were certified as a mental health professional and that it was unknown if the subject had any weapons with her, it was determined for the safety of the team not to send anyone up at that time. AVSAR requested that the officer on duty confirm if her car was still in the parking lot. At 1154 hours Deputy Lavery called advising that Sgt. Coffman had confirmed her car was in the parking lot and that he had voiced our concerns. It was decided to advise CSP Dispatch to have the local wildlife officers in the area keep an eye out for her. They were able to locate her and escorted her safely back to her vehicle.
July 28, 2017:
On Wednesday July 28, 2017 at approximately 1800 hours Deputy Chris Lavery received word from CSP Dispatch that a female subject near the Como trailhead was experiencing dizziness and having trouble breathing. The reporting party advised they had a flat tire and could not bring his passenger down. An ambulance was en route but would not be able to make it up the Como Road. EMT Francis Song and Deputy Lavery headed up to the trailhead in his patrol truck to pick up the female subject and her father. After a quick assessment by the EMT, he determined that she appeared to be suffering from anxiety. She was from Missouri originally and advised she got dizzy watching the helicopters fly over for the other incident AVSAR was currently on. The ambulance transferred her to the hospital where they confirmed that she was suffering from anxiety and would be okay.
July 3, 2017:
On Monday July 3, 2017 at 0835 hours AVSAR Leadership received a call from Cameron with CSP Dispatch. He stated that they had a possible overdue party on Little Bear Peak. Cameron also advised the subject was driving a lighter colored SUV with Arizona plates and that the Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office was asking if we could send a 4×4 Specialist up to verify if the vehicle was still in the area. We advised we would contact our 4×4 Specialist. Before the call could be made AVSAR Leadership received another call from CSP Dispatch, Eric, advising they had received a call from the Reporting Party that they had made contact with the subject who was safely down the mountain and in the process of driving back to Arizona.
June 11-12, 2017:
At approximately 1459 hours Sunday afternoon AVSAR received a call from Deputy Chris Flores. He advised there had been a rock slide on Little Bear Peak involving three subjects. They had a Spot device and the spot dispatcher (IERCC) had received a message and relayed it to CSP Dispatch. There were two men and one woman, all in their early forties and there were no injuries. They were at the summit and had no gear for an overnight stay. AVSAR put their team on standby and made arrangements for a hasty team to go up and try to bring the trio down. Flight For Life inserted the hasty team close to 2000 hours. Hiking all night, they reached the subjects at 0500 hours Monday morning. The only route to reach them was so narrow the hasty team members could not get their packs or equipment through. Unable to reach the summit, and with wind gusts reachig 40 miles per hour, the hasty team was forced to turn back. AVSAR contacted CSRB to send out a page for state wide resources as well as HAATS to see about a possible hoist for the trio. They were cold and suffering from high altitude sickness, and fearing another rock slide, had not moved from their location on the summit. Allowing for all scenarios teams were en route from several SAR teams while arrangements were being made with HAATS out of Eagle. By noon all three subjects had been safely hoisted from the summit and all teams en route were told to stand down.
The two AVSAR hasty team members continued on down the mountain reaching their ride with the 4×4 Specialist around 2000 hours, 24 hours after they were inserted by FFL.
June 10, 2017:
At approximately 1730 hours on Saturday June 10, 2017, AVSAR Leadership was contacted by CSP Dispatch regarding two subjects, a mom and son, who had gone off trail while hiking back down in the Zapata Falls area. She stated she was blowing a whistle and had not gotten any other hikers to respond to her call. AVSAR Leadership tried talking with the subject in a three way cell phone conversation with CSP Dispatch, but she was unable to hear most of the conversation. We did confirm she was staying where she was until help came and Kyle with CSP Dispatch advised us of her coordinates. AVSAR Leadership made contact with one of their field leaders, Morgan Barnes, and advised of the situation. They also relayed that she could hear the creek near her. Before leaving his home Morgan checked her coordinates on his computer and realized she was right between the trail and the creek. Unable to reach her via her cell phone he sent her a text with instructions on which direction to walk, a topo-map and photos of the area she was in. He contacted AVSAR Leadership who advised Kyle of our plan and since he had good phone service, due to his being on a land, line he proceeded to make contact with her and advise her to check her text messages. At the same moment Morgan received a message that she had found the trail. AVSAR Leadership confirmed with CSP Dispatch that both subjects were making their way safely back down the trail.
March 13, 2017:
Sunday March 13, 2017, at 1702 hours, AVSAR Leadership was contacted by Deputy Yvonne Gonzales with the Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office. She advised that a subject had wrecked his 2014 Jeep Wrangler on Como Road. The initial call had come into CSP Dispatch from a tow truck driver who had been contacted by the subject. He reported the subject had no injuries, but would need help pulling his vehicle back onto the road. By law, all tow truck companies have to contact law enforcement anytime someone has been in an accident and requests their assistance. Deputy Gonzales advised that a CSP Trooper was en route and would need our 4×4 Specialist to give him a ride due to the fact he was driving a car. AVSAR contacted their 4×4 Specialist and made arrangements for them to meet the Trooper at Como Trailhead. Deputy Gonzales then advised that since the accident was on Como Road with no injuries and not an actual traffic accident, the Trooper was standing down and would no longer acquire our assistance. We were also advised that a Wildlife Officer with a truck was in the Como Road area and offered to go up with the tow truck driver. It was agreed that Dispatch would let us know if their plan did not work out. At 1714 hours AVSAR advised their 4×4 Specialist of the Wildlife Officer’s offer of assistance and to stand down unless further contact was made.
February 16, 2017
On February 15, 2017 at 1502 hours AVSAR Leadership was contacted by the Colorado State Patrol Dispatch with a request to contact Ranger Dave Chavez of the Great Sand Dunes National Park for a possible assist. We made contact with Ranger Chavez who advised that a 40 year old male subject was overdue, per a call he had received from the subject’s mother. The subject had entered the park on Saturday, February 11, 2017, and his rental car was due to be returned on Tuesday. The rangers had located the car near the campgrounds horse trailer parking lot but the subject had not picked up a camping permit. Ranger Chavez requested we put our team on standby while the rangers conducted a hasty search of the area. AVSAR Leadership contacted the team at approximately 1524 hours and advised them to be on standby for an assist at the Sand Dunes. At 1724 hours Ranger Chavez called and advised that due to recent snows there were no obvious tracks to follow. It was decided to plan a callout for Thursday morning at 0900 hours along with air support, other agencies and a SAR dog being called in. AVSAR contacted the Colorado Search and Rescue state coordinators at 1745 hours and explained the situation. We put them in contact with Ranger Chavez to make final arrangements for a SAR dog and then sent out a confirmed callout to our team to meet the rangers at the visitor center at 0900 hours.
Thursday morning AVSAR, El Paso County SAR’s two SAR dog handlers and one dog, members of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and NPS Rangers, all gathered for a briefing before heading out, on foot and horseback. Most team members located tracks going north along the creek, and south along the road. Boot track pictures were located online by Ranger White with information sent to them from the subject’s mother of the boot box. These pictures were consistent with the tracks that were located.
At approximately 1700 hours on Thursday, February 16, 2017, AVSAR made contact with Ranger Chavez who advised the SAR dog had located a scent and that the dog followed it until coming to a creek. He felt that we were right back to where we had started in the morning, being no closer to finding the missing subject. Ranger Chavez advised the search team was getting ready for debriefing and he would give us a call with details for a Friday search. At 1822 hours AVSAR received a call advising the subject had been found. Shortly after the SAR dog team had been debriefed they located a male subject, dressed in black, walking along the road. They stopped and asked if his name was Bryan and he confirmed it was. He said he had arrived in the park on Saturday and went for a hike and then planned on leaving but was prepared to bivy for one night. He stated he went off trail and got into deep snow, becoming overexerted and disoriented. He ended up hiking around the dunes, counter clockwise, spending six days and five nights in the bitter cold. The remaining members were advised of the successful outcome and AVSAR sent word to all team members waiting to be disbursed for a Friday search that the subject had been located. Halleluiah! We love when a winter search ends with a happy ending. Kudos to all agencies involved.