By Alan Gionet

*Editor’s note: CBS4’s Alan Gionet shares his family’s efforts to try and help a woman at a Colorado campsite.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A woman camping north of Vail on Friday was killed when a tree fell on a family campsite. It happened in an undeveloped camping area off Meadow Creek Road about two miles from Piney Lake.

(credit: CBS)

The area has a great number of trees killed by pine beetle infestation. Gusty winds kicked up in the early evening bringing the tree down on a family camping together. No one else was hurt.

I was setting up at a campsite about a hundred feet away with two of my daughters awaiting arrival of the rest of our family. I left my daughters to take a five minute trip up the road to check another site when winds came up and the tree came crashing down. My daughters heard screaming for help. When I pulled back in, they came running to tell me what happened and we began to help as best we could.

Another camper had already helped the family move the tree and we began to assist with re-positioning her and attempting to assist her breathing with suggestions from my daughter, Camille, who has had some nursing training. There is no phone service in this area to call for help, so I ran for my SUV and drove for Piney River Ranch where there is outside communication. The girls stayed and helped.

After I left, Camille said winds kicked up again and she heard another tree fall nearby.

(credit: CBS)

I tried to explain to people as I called out to those I passed, asking if anyone was a doctor or nurse. One woman told me she was a nurse and she departed to go the site to help.  At Piney River Ranch they quickly contacted authorities and a man with search and rescue training jumped into my vehicle with me to return to the site.

I am sorry I was not making notes of names because I was not in reporter mode at the time. My job was first to help this gravely injured woman.

This man and the nurse who helped, along with my daughter, Camille, assisted the woman until the arrival of first responders. We all tried to help and comfort her husband. Other campers took care of the couple’s children. My other daughter, Clarisse, flagged cars asking for doctors or nurses and directed first responders in when they arrived.

The area is about 12 miles up a series of rough dirt roads from Vail and it took a long time, perhaps close to an hour for the first deputies to get there, but I was not checking my watch. It was another 15+ minutes until emergency medical technicians were able to arrive. They took her to the intersection of the road to Lost Lake to meet a medical helicopter.

However, the woman was pronounced dead before she could be placed in a helicopter for transport to the hospital.

(credit: CBS)

In addition to the efforts of the sheriff’s office and all the first responders, I want to note the tremendous help given by the other campers, the nurse who jumped in, the people at Piney River Ranch and the SAR guy for reacting so quickly and with such compassion. I am also immensely proud of my 19-year-old twin daughters, and we discussed how we can have no regrets in our actions, because there is not one additional thing I believe we could have done.

Lastly our thoughts are with this family in their time of tragedy and sorrow. They only wanted to be together camping. I told the father he had a beautiful family and he does. Other conversations I will not share because I was not acting as a reporter at the time.

There are many tears in our house today, and we are hugging a lot.

Life is precious.

Additional note:

I have since found out the nurse who sprang into action and headed to the campsite to assist was Jessa Crotty. The man who jumped into action quickly from Piney River Ranch was Michael Roche, an EMT from EMS Unlimited based in Steamboat Springs. He was contracted by Piney River Ranch to be on site. I am very glad they were there and both deserve enormous credit for their selfless efforts.

Alan Gionet

Comments
  1. Sherry Wisee says:

    Thank you for the sensitive way you described this horrible event. I knew Meredith for many years while teaching at Grandview High School. She was beyond compare and it’s such a lose for those who knew her and even those that didn’t. I appreciate you and your girls being there for her and her family. It makes me feel more at peace to know that.

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