GUNNISON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Two rafters recently discovered an injured hiker in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and implemented his rescue.
Robby Rogers and Tyson Lockhart found 37-year-old Adam Wright badly injured at the edge of the Gunnison River on Sunday, Dec. 10th.
“He was calling out for help. We heard him before we saw him,” Lockhart told CBS4.
What they saw was a man bleeding badly and suffering fractures to his face, leg and both wrists. Wright had tracked off-trail while making his way down the Bobcat Trail to fish in the river.
Wright fell approximately 50 feet — at about the same time the two rafters were pushing off upriver.
Their paths collided 45 minutes later.
“We were just getting going when we bumped into him,” Lockhart said. “It kind of changed the style of the trip.”
Fortunately, both rafters are medical professionals; Rogers is an emergency room nurse and Lockhart a respiratory therapist. The pair assessed Wright’s injuries — “There were no lift-threatening injuries,” Lockhart said — before rearranging their gear, modifying Rogers’s raft, and loading Wright onto it.
Lockhart deflated his own raft and jumped on board Roger’s 12.5-foot SOTAR Legend cataraft. It was a craft he had grudgingly helped carry to their launch point.
“Nobody brings a boat of that size on that remote part of the river,” he said. “I felt like a pack mule.”
As they formed a platform across width of the cataraft, he grew thankful for they had made the effort to bring it.
As the team made final preparations to re-enter the current, three kayakers and another hiker happened upon the scene. Rogers and Lockhart sent two of the kayakers downstream and the hiker back to the rim of the canyon. All were given the same instructions to pass along to authorities: Meet the patient at Ute Park.
The third kayaker was asked to accompany the raft, just in case.
(credit: Tyson Lockhart)
Lockhart, meanwhile, grew concerned about Wright’s warmth. The rafters, outfitted with multiple layers of fleece underneath their dry suits, were prepared for the frigid water. Wright was dressed in a T-shirt, flannel shirt, and jeans.
“The thing that’s going to kill him is the cold,” Lockhart remembers thinking to himself. The air temperature was 40 degrees when they first started out shortly after noon, and now ice was already forming on parts of their gear.
Lockhart sat next to Wright in the rear of the raft and monitored his condition.
The group traveled several miles through Class 3 rapids and reached Ute Park intact. Rogers started a campfire to warm Wright. A medical helicopter landed a half hour after they arrived.
Rogers and Lockhart immediately resumed their trip as the helicopter carrying Wright flew over their heads. They still had half their planned excursion ahead of them, and at 3:30 p.m., they were racing darkness.
They pulled their raft out of the river 10 minutes before dusk, Lockhart said.
“It really was a pretty amazing experience. Everything fell together.”
Meanwhile, Wright’s wife in Montrose received an emergency message that her husband sent prior to encountering the rafters.
“I was out with my kids and got a text from Adam at 4 o’clock that said ‘Hurt Bad. Send Help.'” Catherine Wright said. “I sent a reply but didn’t hear back.”
She was eventually contacted by hospital personnel.
Catherine Wright says her husband will remain in the hospital until sometime next week.
Rogers and Lockhart have already visited him.
“Adam is the coolest guy in the world,” Lockhart said. “We’re going to take him down the river when he’s better.”