A Montrose couple’s Saturday Jeep expedition over Imogene Pass became a matter of life and death when they tumbled off Tomboy Road down a steep, brushy embankment near Royer Gulch. Robert and Kay Scott, both 72, sustained multiple injuries, some of them critical. They tumbled approximately 450 feet from the roadway.
According to San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Susan Lilly, the accident precipitated a four-hour-long, technical rope rescue undertaken by multiple agencies and a handful of volunteers that happened to be in the area. Tomboy Road was closed from both directions for approximately five hours. The Scotts had come over the pass from the Ouray side. According to the authorities, more than 35 people, including Telluride Fire Protection District EMS and Fire personnel, San Miguel Sheriff’s Deputies, San Miguel Search and Rescue and willing bystanders, participated in the nearly five hour mission.
“Sheriff Bill Masters appreciates the multi-agency effort and the willingness of bystanders to participate in this very technical rescue,” Lilly said.
The couple, who are still recovering at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, had a few things go right for them. That they had a cell signal to call 911 was a key factor in their eventual rescue, Lilly said. The area is notorious for intermittent reception.
“It’s a miracle they had a cell signal,” she said, noting that they were not visible from the roadway.
The time from when Kay Scott placed the call to dispatch until the first paramedic arrived at the scene of the accident, was 30 minutes. Lilly said that, too, was a rapid response time considering the couple’s precarious spot.
And, though their Jeep had a soft top, the roll bars remained intact, further protecting them as they careened down the gully. Lilly said that, based on the damage to the vehicle, they may have also gone end over end.
The Scotts are still being treated at St. Mary’s, according to a statement released by the Scott family.
“Both Bob and Kay are in critical, but stable condition (at St. Mary’s Hospital) and are undergoing procedures at this time,” the statement read. “We continue to remain hopeful and pray for a full recovery.”
Search and Rescue and medical crews had coincidentally been conducting rope rescue training a couple of times in the past month, Lilly said. The training was timely as personnel executed the technical rope rescue in extremely steep terrain with the constant threat of rockfall.
Each of the patients was assessed by EMS personnel and transported by vehicle to the Telluride Regional Medical Center. From there, the couple was taken to the Telluride Regional Airport to waiting medical helicopters for the flight to Grand Junction.
“We’re very lucky to live in this community,” Lilly said. “The way this team worked together was a humbling experience. The teamwork was incredible.”
The SMSO cautioned motorists traveling on Tomboy Road to remain focused on the task at hand, despite the scenery. It is not known what caused the couple’s Jeep to leave the road.
The 17-mile route that links Ouray and Telluride is a popular route for four-wheel drive enthusiasts. Last winter’s heavy snows delayed the opening of the former mining road. San Miguel County Road and Bridge crews just cleared the last of the snow July 30, opening the pass to through traffic. Commercial drivers and those in personal vehicles ply the pass road daily in the summer, attracted by the stunning scenery, numerous historic features and challenging driving.