At approximately 6:02 p.m. on April 1, Leadville/Lake County Fire-Rescue was dispatched to East Second Street and Plum Street where a male had fallen into a 30-foot-deep pit while attempting to access his storage unit.
Leadville/Lake County Fire-Rescue (LLCFR) personnel were on the scene by 6:04 p.m. Upon arrival, the department discovered that the bottom of the pit had substantial ice and water in it, creating a very cold situation. The edges of the pit were also unstable.
Within minutes of arriving and assessing the situation, LCCFR Captain Dave McCann directed Alex Conlin, a firefighter with the department, to assist the individual. Conlin prepared to rappel down into the hole while a rescue plan was developed.
LCCFR started the rescue mission by placing a 24-foot ladder over the top of the sinkhole allowing a better view of the pit. Conlin then rappelled down the hole with the safety equipment needed to prepare the man for extraction.
Conlin was able to help the individual into safety gear attached to a safety line that was connected to the fire engine to keep the victim from sinking into the water.
Conlin determined that the man had sustained injuries, and REACH Air Medical Services was contacted to fly to Leadville. Lake County Search and Rescue arrived to the scene around 7:40 p.m. to assist with the high-angle rescue.
After Conlin and the victim were extracted, an ambulance drove the injured party to the airport where the helicopter was waiting to transport him to a Denver-area hospital for treatment of his injuries.
Conlin was assessed and provided rehabilitation treatment, including warming up from the extremely cold environment he was exposed to.
“Risk a lot to save a lot, risk a little to save a little, risk nothing to save nothing,” Conlin said of the rescue. “Our department’s (LLCFR) core ideology is ‘first in, last out,’ and we train and prepare for how best to handle these and many other types of situations.”
“This was an incredible example of teamwork with all responding agencies to smoothly and safely accomplish this rescue,” McCann added. Other assisting agencies included the Leadville Police Department, St. Vincent Ambulance Service, Lake County Road and Bridge and Lake County Dispatch.