A hiker who spent a night stranded in the Colorado wilderness with a broken leg made it out alive after managing to flag down a passing train. The female hiker in her 20s had been reported missing Sunday after failing to return from a day hike on the Colorado Trail near Silverton. The New Mexico woman had become lost then fell an estimated 90 feet from a cliff face. After losing consciousness, she awoke to a broken leg and concussion, reports the Durango Herald. In a move that might have saved her life, she crawled to the bank of the icy Animas River, which would put her in view of trains passing along the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad on the opposite bank.
As the first train sped by Monday morning, a single passenger spotted the woman, who was waving wildly but only visible from a very limited angle, and alerted the crew. The crew in turn notified Delton Henry, who was following the train in the inspection motor car and called out to the hiker, learning she was unable to move. D&SNG Superintendent Darren Whitten then called 911 and was informed a hiker was overdue "and that her parents had been frantically looking for her," he tells the Herald. More help arrived on a second train, 45 minutes after the first. Husband and wife Nick and Kylah Breeden, the train's engineer and fireman, who are also medics, waded across the fast-flowing river, at times submerged up to their chests in icy water, per the Herald and KUSA.
"She was in pretty rough shape," Whitten tells the Herald of the hiker, who was not only cold and dehydrated but had a "visibly offset" leg. Rescuers eventually rigged a trolley system that carried the hiker across the river, where a helicopter took her to a hospital. That she survived the cold night without proper gear or clothing, "was aware the train was still running, and managed with a broken leg to crawl to the bank of the river to try and signal them" was "pretty miraculous," DeAnne Gallegos of San Juan County's Office of Emergency Management tells the Herald. But she "owes her recovery" to the train crew, who "were the rock stars of this situation." Also deserving of some credit is the passenger who spotted the hiker; the railroad covered the cost of her ticket in gratitude. (More rescue stories.)