Arkansas woman found after two-day search
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Garfield County search and rescue teams, with the help of teams from two neighboring counties, spent two cold, rainy days in the Flat Tops last week before rescuing a lost Arkansas woman.
Sarah Kelley, 35, of Fort Smith, Ark., was not injured, beyond being weak and ill from exposure. She was airlifted to Vail Valley Medical Center for treatment.
Kelley was hunting with her husband, James Kelley III, 39, near the headwaters of Main Elk Creek on Tuesday, Sept. 13, when he grew tired due to an undisclosed medical condition and lay down to rest.
Sarah Kelley, unable to rouse her husband as darkness fell, built a fire for him and covered him with a space blanket and their extra heavy clothing before setting off to find help, according to Lanny Grant, spokesman for Garfield County SAR, Inc.
James Kelley, meanwhile, had roused himself, found his wife gone, and set out to locate her that evening. After failing to find her, he rested overnight and went search again on Wednesday.
It was not until late Wednesday that James Kelley contacted the Garfield County Sheriff’s office to report his wife missing, according to authorities.
The search by Garfield County rescuers began that evening and continued into the early morning on Thursday, Sept. 15, when worsening weather prompted searchers take a break, according to Grant.
The search resumed later that day, after teams from Mesa and West Eagle counties were called in to help. They finally located the woman at about 5:30 p.m. She had spent two days and two nights out in cold, rainy weather.
“She was very tired and cold, hypothermic,” Grant said. “At night, it was definitely freezing.”
“It was very rugged country,” Grant added, describing the area as made up of steep canyons and heavy timber, at about 10,800 feet in elevation.
All told, he said, the search involved more than two dozen rescuers who had to search the maze of canyons without air support because of the bad weather.
It was just as the teams were calling it quits for another day when two rescuers from Mesa County heard the woman calling weakly for help. She told them she had spotted the yellow coats they were wearing.
Grant estimated that Kelley walked nearly 10 miles as she wandered the high country, moving from one drainage to the next and at one point trying to retrace her route to get back to her husband.
He cautioned anyone using the back country to always carry foul weather gear, warm clothes, flashlights and equipment for staying out overnight.
“I think the things that saved this lady were, one, she kept moving, and two, the quality of her clothing was good enough to help her,” he said. “She was extremely lucky.”
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