Routt County resident critically injured in Friday rollover crash on day that pushed Steamboat Fire Rescue to its limits
December 26, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County resident Chris Thomas, 28, is recovering in a Denver hospital after a rollover accident the night of Thursday, Dec. 20, left him critically injured.
At about 8:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters were dispatched to a report of a vehicle off the roadway near the Fox Creek Estates subdivision on the north side of U.S. Highway 40 at the base of Rabbit Ears Pass. When the vehicle left the road, it went airborne for 186 feet, clearing trees, before it rolled several times, according to Colorado State Patrol.
Nearby the vehicle, first responders found Thomas, who was “severely hypothermic with multi-system trauma,” according to a news release from Steamboat Fire Rescue. It is unknown whether Thomas was ejected from the vehicle or crawled out of the car sometime after the crash, according to the release.
How to help
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help pay for Chris Thomas’ medical bills.
Paramedics and EMTs worked to package Thomas in a stokes basket while additional personnel set up a simple 5-to-1 rope system to haul the patient up the steep hillside and back to the road, where he was loaded into an ambulance and transported to UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, Steamboat Fire Rescue public information officer Christian Keller said.
“From the point that they got in contact (with Thomas) to the point they got him up to Highway 40 took about 40 minutes,” Keller said.
Crews had requested a Classic Air Medical helicopter to fly Thomas to a Denver-area Level 1 trauma center, but weather grounded the helicopter while Thomas was being stabilized at the hospital, Keller said. Thomas was later transported to Yampa Valley Regional Airport, where a fixed-wing Classic Air Medical plane flew him to Denver Health Medical Center in critical condition.
In addition to other injuries, Thomas suffered a broken jaw in the crash. His breathing tube was removed Tuesday, according to a post on a GoFundMe page set up to help raise money for Thomas’ care.
Thomas’ wife, Kendra, said he is stable but still in the Intensive Care Unit and that there is a long road of recovery ahead.
An update on the GoFundMe page said Thomas is “thankful to be alive.”
Simultaneous calls stretch staffing
The crash was the first major call on a busy day for Steamboat Fire Rescue and later resulted in two attempts to transport the patient from the hospital to the airport for transport to Denver.
“The rollover crash was all eight on-duty personnel, so the entire crew was tied up on that single call," Keller said.
At a glance
Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue calls on Friday, Dec. 21:
1:28 a.m. Ambulance transport from Steamboat Emergency Center.
8:24 a.m. Motor vehicle crash at mile marker 140 on U.S. Highway 40.
9:02 a.m. Chest pain in the 27000 block of Routt County Road 64.
10:31 a.m. Ambulance transport from UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.
10:54 a.m. Steamboat Ski Patrol assist.
1:29 p.m. Steamboat Ski Patrol assist.
2:15 p.m. Ambulance transport from Yampa Valley Medical Center.
2:34 p.m. Steamboat Ski Patrol assist.
3:35 p.m. Motor vehicle crash at mile marker 154 on U.S. 40.
4:19 p.m. Motor vehicle crash at mile marker 68 on Colorado Highway 131.
6:36 p.m. Citizen assist in the 2300 block of Val D’Isere Circle.
9:44 p.m. Fall in the 2600 block of Ridge Road.
11:40 p.m. Trauma in the 2000 block of Walton Creek Road.
Source: Routt County Communications
Steamboat Fire Rescue typically has eight people on duty, including six at the mountain fire station to staff a fire engine and an ambulance as well as two at the downtown station to staff an additional ambulance, Keller said.
Later in the day Friday, a ninth person was on staff thanks to leftover money from a grant from the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation, which was intended to staff an extra ambulance during the summer.
At about 3:30 p.m., firefighters were called to a rollover crash near Muddy Pass on U.S. 40 in nearby Jackson County. No one was injured in that crash, according to the release.
"We tend to get called since we're a full-time crew versus Grand County," which is primarily volunteer, Keller said.
A third minor call or second major call means paging off-duty personnel, which happened when firefighters got paged to the next call: a fatal head-on crash on Colorado Highway 131 near Haymaker Golf Course.
At the time of that call, “everybody was tied up,” Keller said.
The fire truck and one ambulance were wrapping up the second rollover crash on Rabbit Ears Pass, and the second ambulance was returning from dropping Thomas off at the Hayden airport.
A page was sent to off-duty firefighters, calling them to respond to the Colo. 131 crash. In addition, an Oak Creek Fire Department engine with extrication abilities was called to help remove passengers from the crash, and a West Routt Fire Protection District ambulance was paged to cover any additional calls in Steamboat.
The Oak Creek engine was canceled after Steamboat was able to put together a full crew, with nine firefighters responding to the head-on crash in one engine, two ambulances and a staff vehicle.