Recently, an injured solo hiker in New Mexico was rescued after being stuck for 14 days in the Santa Fe National Forest. The man was found by a hiker and two children, who stumbled upon his makeshift campground.
The rescuer named John Utsey told CBS/Fox affiliate KRQE that he was hiking Windsor Trail with his two kids on Saturday when they heard someone’s cries for help.
“I called [my daughter’s] name, and she didn’t call back to me, so I called her name really loud and then I heard her yell back to me from way up around the corner… Then, I heard somebody else answer from way off the trail,” he recalled.
After twenty minutes of shouting back and forth, and scrambling 600 yards off the trail down a steep hillside, the family finally found the injured man and provided him with food and water.
“I’m not sure he had more than a day or two left,” Utsey said. “He was lying beside a creek… he couldn’t stand, he couldn’t move. He was delirious, so he wasn’t making much sense. His lips were all chapped to the point they were bleeding. His tongue was swollen; he was super gaunt and skinny. I was like, ‘This guy really needs help.”
Utsey quickly called 911 and helped rescue crews locate the injured man. And within an hour, local firefighters and rescue teams arrived on the scene to rescue the man. Local news station KRQE reports that it took a nine-hour trail rescue to get to the man and save him.
In a Facebook post, the Santa Fe Fire Department wrote: “Trail rescue yesterday! Station 1 A shift crew did a 9-hour-trail rescue to save a man that was lost in the Santa Fe forest for 14 days. They built a fire to bring up the man’s body temp which was dangerously low, fed him and gave him water. The man suffered from chronic back pain and again injured his back while hiking and could not stand or walk. His gear was stolen at which point he got lost and disoriented.”
Authorities said the man was at least 50 years old, and relied on his filtering water bottle to survive. He had his gear stolen, and became “lost and disoriented” before he was found by Utsey and his kids.
“Never had we found somebody who had been out for that long,” Garcia told KRQE. “The human body can do some amazing things sometimes, but I don’t think he had very much left in him. He seemed kind of at the end when we actually did encounter him.”
The department didn’t forget to thank the rescuers: “Special thanks to John Utsey the hiker that found him disoriented and provided food and water for him. Special thanks to the Atalaya search and Rescue team as well as Santa Fe search and rescue and los Alamos search and rescue for all their help in getting the patient safely out of the forest.”
The injured hiker was taken to a Santa Fe hospital, where he is recovering.
“He had the will to survive, for sure,” Utsey said.
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