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Douglas County deputy sheriff describes daring search and rescue

It took 16 hours to rescue three hunters who were stuck in the snow, one of whom ended up in jail.

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — After nearly 30 years as a police officer in Albuquerque and Aurora, Deputy Sheriff Rick Garcia joined the Douglas County Sheriff's Department just six months ago but he already has quite the story to tell.

"Two to three feet of snow, blew me away," Garcia said.

It was last Thursday, right around 2 p.m. Deputy Garcia got a call that three people were stuck in the snow in their truck on North Rampart Range Road. 

"When I got on top of the mountain, higher elevation, there was no rain, it was all snow and it was coming down pretty hard," Garcia said.

It took him about an hour and a half to go 15 miles but Deputy Garcia finally arrived at the stuck truck, where he found a father and his two adult sons.

"My first question to them was, what are you guys doing up here? And they said, we're turkey hunting," Garcia said. "It’s turkey season, so I understood what they were doing up there."

Deputy Garcia only had room in his truck for one person, so he took the father, Michael Hurst, because he was concerned that Hurst needed his medication.

The plan was to drop Hurst off in Woodland Park and then go back to get his two sons. The problem is that the weather was getting worse and the trip back into the mountains, this time on a snowmobile, was extremely difficult, even with the help of the Douglas County Search and Rescue team.

"There were tree after tree after tree on the roadway from the heavy snow, the trees had just fallen straight down. So we had to come up with a chainsaw plan and a handsaw plan, we had to cut our way through the trees to get to make a path to get to these guys," Garcia said.

Unfortunately the rescue team was never able to get there, so around 6 a.m. Friday, about 16 hours after he first responded to the call, Deputy Garcia returned to the command post in Woodland Park.  A National Guard helicopter was then sent to rescue the two men, who were apparently running out of food and water, and gas to keep their car warm.

"When I heard they got them out and to safety, I was extremely happy over that," Garcia said.

A post-script: According to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, one of Hurst's sons had felony drug warrants out of El Paso County.  As a result, when the helicopter that rescued him landed at Buckley Air Force Base, he was handcuffed and taken into custody.  


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