An “incredible” rescue mission Sunday for a Montrose couple whose Jeep plunged 450 feet down a mountain road between Ouray and Telluride likely saved the lives of the couple, authorities said.
“They are fortunate to be alive,” said San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Susan Lilly. “It was just a great outcome.”
According to authorities, Robert and Kay Scott, both 72 years old, were driving on Imogene Pass, a popular high-country road that connects Ouray and Telluride, when their Jeep went off the road and down the mountain, rolling several times.
While stuck in the vehicle 450 feet down in the canyon from the road, Kay Scott was able to get a phone and call 911 at 11:50 a.m. Sunday, Lilly said.
“It’s incredible they had cell service in the canyon,” Lilly said. “There’s not reliable cell service in that area.”
The first paramedic was on scene and made contact with the Scotts 450 feet down from the road within 30 minutes, Lilly said. It was determined both Robert and Kay Scott suffered critical injuries.
Because of the steep and narrow mountainous terrain, extracting the couple required a highly technical rescue, Lilly said.
More than 35 people from Telluride Fire Protection District EMS and Fire, San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office and San Miguel County Search and Rescue, as well as willing bystanders, helped during the nearly five-hour mission.
The first patient, Lilly said, reached the top of the road just after 3 p.m. and was taken to Telluride Medical Center. The second patient was extracted shortly after and also taken to the hospital.
Both Robert and Kay Scott were then flown to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. A spokeswoman for the hospital said, as of 11:20 a.m. Monday, the couple were in critical but stable condition.
Emergency officials are unsure what caused the vehicle to go off the road. The couple were unable to communicate those details during the rescue. Alcohol, drugs and speed are not considered factors in the crash, Lilly said.
She added the Scotts owned the Jeep they were driving and were experienced backcountry drivers. It appeared they were wearing seat belts.
“It’s possible they were distracted,” she said. ”In other parts of the country, people become distracted because of texting. But in this part of the country, beauty causes people to become distracted. And it takes just one second of distraction for disastrous consequences.”
Imogene Pass was closed from about noon to 5 p.m. Sunday for the rescue.