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First responders speak on snowy Pikes Peak rescue

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The last 6 miles of the Pikes Peak Highway are currently closed to the public, but Sunday, first responders with the American Medical Response (AMR), made the trek to respond to an emergency medical situation at the top of Pikes Peak involving a Cog Railway passenger.

According to the Pikes Peak weather report, the last portion of the 19-mile stretch is currently closed due to "high winds, snowy and icy roads," as it was Sunday, and the crews that responded say the wind and snow were frightening.

"Road conditions there on Pikes Peak, there are guardrails at certain turns where the road switches back, but for the most part, there are no guardrails," said Michaela Dramis, the EMT who drove the ambulance. "And so we were dodging large snowdrifts and driving pretty close to the edge for most of the way."

Dramis and the others in the ambulance, paramedic Maegan Balschweid and paramedic supervisor James Taylor, said they have responded to emergencies at the top of Pikes Peak before, but Sunday's rescue was far more intense.

At times, the crew said they couldn't see the snow plow driving in front of them.

Still, even though the experience was frightening, they knew it was up to them to get to the top and offer the patient medical care.

"Green Mountain Falls Fire waited at Glen Cove to see if they could help land the helicopter," said Balschweid. "But unfortunately, due to the weather conditions and the wind and just the conditions of Pikes Peak, the helicopter wasn't going to make it. So we were the only option."

Skylar Rorabaugh, the mountain manager at Pikes Peak, says several things happen once a medical emergency takes place at the top of the mountain.

First, employed medics based out of the Pikes Peak visitor center decide whether 911 needs to be called.

Once a 911 call is made, staff at the summit call a Pikes Peak crew of rangers at the base of the mountain, to tell them what road conditions they need to prepare for so emergency responders can make the ascent.

With inclement weather conditions like Pikes Peak saw on Sunday, rangers at the base will contact road crews to plow through the snow and ensure the ambulance can reach the summit safely.

Rorabaugh said that on Sunday, medics and staff treated the patient while the ambulance made its way up the mountain.

He said all staff are trained in CPR, and there is always at least one medic at the summit in case of emergency.

We asked Rorabaugh how many times ambulances are called to respond to emergencies at the summit. He said he is working to get us data on the number of responses.

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Annabelle Childers

Annabelle is a reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about her here.


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