Sunday 18 February 2018

Woman stranded in car for five days will lose both feet

Kristin Hopkins
Kristin Hopkins

A woman who was stranded for days after her car hurtled off a mountain pass will lose both her feet as a result of her injuries, her family says.

Kristin Hopkins wrote pleas for help on an umbrella she managed to push through a broken window of her crashed car, hoping to attract the attention of drivers on a scenic highway above.

It was five days before anyone spotted the overturned car 80ft down an embankment in an aspen grove off US Highway 285, overlooking the sprawling ranchlands and surrounding mountains of the South Park area of Colorado.

Authorities said people driving over the high spot hiked down and alerted authorities that they thought there was a body inside the car, but rescuers found Ms Hopkins alive, conscious and coherent, but critically injured and extremely dehydrated.

She was flown by helicopter to St Anthony Hospital in suburban Denver, where she remains in critical condition.

Her family thanked people for their prayers and thoughts.

Investigators say she went off the right side of the road near Fairplay while navigating a left curve on Red Hill Pass on April 29, the day she was reported missing in Douglas County, where she lives.

Her 2009 Chevrolet Malibu struck multiple trees, went down an embankment and rolled several times before landing on its top.

Ms Hopkins was entered into a state-wide police database as a missing person but as she is an adult and there were no indications of foul play, there was no active search for her.

The firefighters who rescued her initially thought they were on a recovery mission. When they arrived at the car, firefighter Jim Cravener asked a colleague to break a window and feel for a pulse.

"He started to break the window and she put her hand up to the window," he said. "At that point, it became a rescue."

Mr Cravener said her notes on the umbrella were hard to make out, but appeared to say, "six days, no food, no water; please help me; and need a doctor".

"She really had a strong will to survive."

Mr Cravener said sightseers often stop at the spot but usually in the autumn when the leaves are turning colour. It was just by chance that somebody would stop at this time of year, he said.

Firefighters called for a helicopter, which arrived in about 15 minutes and landed 400 yards down the hillside, then rescuers set to work cutting into the vehicle, pulling out Ms Hopkins, and taking her to the helicopter.

It was a complicated extrication because of the location, Mr Cravener said.

He said Ms Hopkins was fairly responsive at first, even telling her rescuers she was not hurt. But they could see her face was badly bruised, possibly by the steering wheel or air bag.

"She didn't talk a whole lot. She started to become less responsive as we carried her down the hill. We had to keep waking her up," he added.

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