A demonstration of the simple tool that saved a woman during complicated rescue

ednesday afternoon, ten agencies helped save a woman after a boulder crushed her leg while hiking North Table Mountain. She made it out alive, but badly hurt

GOLDEN - During this time of year, Colorado's beauty is irresistible, and nature is unpredictable.

Wednesday afternoon, ten agencies helped save a woman after a boulder crushed her leg while hiking North Table Mountain. She made it out alive, but badly hurt.

"We go on rescues frequently, but not for people trapped under boulders usually," John Priestly said, a firefighter with the Golden Fire Department.

Priestly was on scene Wednesday.

"The first thought was just time was of the essence," he said.

Priestly says rescuers had only one way to reach her -- on foot. 

"One hundred percent of it had to be hiked in," he said. 

The boulder that tumbled on top of her weighed up to 1,500 pounds, so Priestly and the rescue team slid a high pressure airbag to underneath the rock. The simple tool pushed the massive boulder to the side.

"It lifted it right up; we only needed a little bit of lift and they were able to pull the patient out," he said.

During a demonstration Thursday, Priestly said one of the larger airbags can lift 15 tons. The smallest can move about 2,000 pounds.

The cost runs into the tens of thousands of dollars for the entire pump and airbag system.

"It pays for itself in one rescue," he said.

Jeff Steinhoff is also with Golden fire. As a hiker himself, he knows the danger waiting on the trail.

"Its very difficult and I don't know if you can really predict where it's going to happen," Steinhoff he said. "The snow that's melting is going down into the rocks and at night that snow melt -- the water --i s freezing which expands the rocks out and makes it much more fragile, if you will."

Disaster caused by rock slides are rare, but the damage can be extreme. 

On Wednesday, a rock slide closed part of I-70 near Dumont.

In 2013, five members of a family were killed when rocks fell on top of them in Chaffee County. Only one family member, a 13-year-old girl, survived.

Steinhoff said there are clues that a rock slide may be imminent. He recommended looking for water along the trail and loose rocks. 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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