Ultimately, it was a Mountain Rescue Aspen team that spotted the 33-year-old, developmentally disabled male who had become separated from his hiking companion Saturday, according to a Pitkin County Alert.
At approximately 3:30 p.m., the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center was notified by its Garfield County counterpart of a missing hiker along North Thompson Creek, south of Carbondale. The Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District had already been made aware of the situation and had “several of its members” in the field searching for the man by the time the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office got word of the ordeal, the alert explained.
Shortly after PCSO was notified, Mountain Rescue Aspen was brought onto the scene as well, and by about 6 p.m., the first of two rescue teams entered the field, in the area of Thompson Creek Campground. The second rescue team subsequently came from the area of Highway 133, near the Sustainable Setting Ranch. Carbondale Fire, too, deployed one of its drones to assist.
But even with the drone’s aerial perspective, one of the MRA rescue teams on the ground located the missing hiker along North Thompson Creek around 7:30 p.m. and began walking him out, Carbondale Fire Lieutenant Aaron Luttrell — who was flying said drone on the scene — emphasized Sunday.
“I was on the ground, flying the drone probably 100 yards away. They spotted him, so I landed the drone,” Luttrell clarified. “[The missing hiker] was coming down the creek, and MRA and myself helped get him out of the river and walked him back. It shouldn’t be understated that he helped get himself out of the river, and he walked back all under his own power after spending four-plus hours, probably, in the creek.”
There were no injuries in the incident and the hiker returned home safely. The weather was mild in Carbondale Sunday afternoon, with the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport weather station reporting 69 degrees and sunny at 3:53 p.m.
“Aside from being tired, hungry and thirsty, the hiker was otherwise uninjured. At 8:30 p.m., MRA rescuers with the hiker made it out of the field where they were met by some of the hiker’s companions,” the Pitkin County alert detailed. “By 8:45 p.m., all MRA rescuers had made it out of the field, and at 9:00 p.m. the incident was closed.”
Luttrell commended the mutual aid agreement between the two agencies.
“Carbondale initiated the search, did initial containment for the missing person, then called MRA because we didn’t have the resources to deal with it,” he said. “They were amazing, and they were the ones who spotted him. They’re the ones who put together the apparatus who found him; I just happened to be there at the end to help out.”