PARK COUNTY, Colo. – Two Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies are back at work following a weekend rescue mission neither will forget. More snow, coupled with high winds last Saturday, left dozens of motorists stranded along Highway 285 between Kenosha Pass and Fairplay.
When Jefferson County was called to assist, Deputies Chadd Crumbaker and Dawn Fulenwinder were ready. With a Snowcat in tow, the pair rushed to help.
“There was this real sense of urgency to get up there and we still didn’t know just how many people they were talking about, so when we got up there and we saw how many vehicles were parked alongside the highway, in the middle of the highway, jackknifed trucks, broken down CDOT plows … it was shocking,” said Jeffco Deputy Dawn Fulenwider.
Fulenwider has been with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office for 28 years and this latest rescue mission? It was one of her bigger challenges.
“I think the large numbers of people involved is probably what caught me by surprise. We were getting bits and pieces of information as we were transporting the Snowcat up to Park County and some of that information was that people were starting to panic up there. They were out of gas, they were out of power,”said Fulenwider.
Luckily she and Crumbaker train regularly for this exact situation.
“Dawn and I have worked specifically on this team for like 10 years now and it all comes down to trust really. We’ve trained countless hours together we’ve been on several missions together,” said Crumbaker.
While they didn’t know exactly how many people needed help, they knew a sick child was the first priority.
“There were so many cars so trying to find that car, it took a little while and while en route to the car, there were some people that were jumping in front of the car asking us to help them. Unfortunately, we had to tell them what our mission was and that we would be back,” said Fulenwinder.
They did go back for those they passed. Over the course of 16 hours, Crumbaker and Fulenwider rescued 22 people and three dogs.
One man’s windows were so iced over, they almost didn’t see him.
“Chad opened up the car door and a man tumbled out of the passenger side of the vehicle and you could tell he was surprised to see us and he said to us, ’I am so glad you’re here. I didn’t think I was going to make it through the night.’”
Everyone made it out safely thanks to their efforts and those of Park County.
Both say what struck them about the rescue aside from the number of stranded drivers was how unprepared many were.
“Seeing how exposed everyone was, I think the thing that hit me the most was the importance of carrying winter gear in the car because you just never know what’s going to happen because a lot of these storms are unforeseeable with how intense they’re going to be, so it’s really important that people carry blankets in their cars and water in their car and you know, food in their car.”