Couple Trapped in Vehicle Overnight After Driving Off Independence Pass, Near Aspen, CO

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independence pass, aspen, Colorado, car off edge
Location of the vehicle off the road. Credit: Mountain Rescue Aspen

At approximately 11:20 a.m. on Friday, August 21, 2020, the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center was notified by the Colorado State Patrol of an unknown injury accident in the area of mile marker 61 on Colorado State Highway 82. Mile marker 61 is the summit of Independence Pass and is also roughly the boundary between Pitkin and Lake County.

Deputies from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office along with public safety members from Aspen Volunteer Fire Department, Aspen Ambulance District, and Mountain Rescue Aspen responded from Pitkin County to the area. Additionally, the Colorado Department of Transportation resources and Lake County public safety resources were mobilized from the east side of Independence Pass in the event the incident was in Lake County.

Pitkin County agencies arrived on scene at approximately 12:03 p.m. and contacted the Colorado State Patrol trooper who had located the vehicle in question. The vehicle was discovered just inside Lake County at mile marker 62 and off the roadway approximately 500 feet down the hillside. Initial reports indicate the vehicle had been in that position since the previous night, August 20th. Lake County agencies arrived shortly after 12:05 p.m. and integrated into the already established operation seamlessly.

In total there were two people who were trapped in the vehicle and had sustained critical injuries, each of which was airlifted by Flight For Life to medical facilities in the state for treatment. One of the patients was hauled up the hillside to an awaiting Flight For Life Helicopter by firefighters, paramedics, and mountain rescue personnel. A High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site (HAATS) Blackhawk helicopter was requested and used to airlift the other patient to an awaiting Flight For Life Helicopter which was staged at the summit of Independence Pass.

In order to create a sterile environment for the three helicopters to operate safety, in addition to the numerous public safety personnel working at the scene, Independence Pass was closed in both directions from approximately 12:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is grateful for the collaboration and partnership with not only our own Pitkin County public safety agencies but also our colleagues in Lake County, at the Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Department of Transportation and all agencies listed below. The teamwork displayed today ultimately resulted in a successful ending where each patient was able to reach definitive care for treatment.

independence pass, aspen, colorado
Independence Pass, CO

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