Passerby Saves Near-Death Hiker, Stranded for 2 Weeks

'Never had we found somebody who had been out for that long'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2020 1:02 PM CDT
Family Out for a Hike Saves a Hiker Near Death
This May 2018 photo shows a portion of Nambe Lake in Santa Fe National Forest.   (Wikimedia/Matthew.kowal)

John Utsey was hiking with his two kids in New Mexico's Santa Fe National Forest on Saturday when his daughter got out of sight. He called out loudly and heard her answer from around a bend, farther up the trail. "Then I heard somebody else answer from way off," Utsey tells KRQE. The voice led him 600 yards off the trail, down a steep hillside, to the spot where a hiker lay close to death. The man had been stranded for a full two weeks—half of that time without food, per the AP—after injuring his back. "He couldn't stand, he couldn't move. He was delirious," says Utsey. He'd only managed to stay alive by dragging himself to a stream to drink. "His lips were all chapped ... [and] bleeding. His tongue was swollen. He was super gaunt and skinny," says Utsey. "I was like, 'This guy really needs help.'"

Utsey and his kids gave the man all of their food and water, then hiked back to the trailhead to call 911. He gave authorities the man's GPS location, but firefighters failed to find him after an eight-hour search. That's when Utsey jumped into action yet again. He returned to the Windsor Trail on Sunday morning, found the hiker, called 911 again, and eventually directed two separate crews to the man's location. "Never had we found somebody who had been out for that long," Santa Fe Fire Capt. Nathan Garcia tells KRQE. "He seemed kind of at the end when we did actually encounter him." Firefighters have not identified the man but say he is an experienced hiker over the age of 50. He's now recovering in a Sante Fe hospital. (Read more survival stories.)

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