6 In Van Survive Cliff Plunge

CAROUSEL: This Aug. 2,2010 photo released by The Mullin Automotive Museum shows a 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, one of only three ever made. CBS

They're calling it a miracle on the mountain.

Returning from a basketball game in southwestern Colorado, a minivan skidded off the road and over a cliff, plunging 400 feet into a ravine.

"We were just going around the corner and we barely started to slide," Joe Sullivan, the driver, says. "We weren't going very fast, and we just sort of got over the edge and there we went."

With bruses on her face, his wife, Linda Sullivan, tells The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen, "It's just a helpless feeling. You just start falling and you wait until it stops."

Joe Sullivan recalls closing his eyes and yelling he was sorry.

His daughter Tessa remembers hearing her brother screaming very loudly. "I was actually asleep, and that's probably what woke me up first," she says.

The Sullivans' friend, Terry Holman, and his daughter, Stacia, were also in the van when it crashed Saturday. He was in the front seat with Joe Sullivan.

"It doesn't really give you time to think," Terry Holman says. "As we went off the first thing I thought was, we were probably done for."

There was no guard rail and they were too close to the edge. Joe Sullivan says simply, "The road was just not there."

He tells Chen, "After the first roll and you're still alive, I mean you could still feel it, I said, 'You know maybe we're OK.' And then you go again and again. We never stopped. It wouldn't stop, and so I kept thinking we survived every roll - it seemed like."

When the vehicle finally stopped rolling, the occupants were not only still alive, but no one was seriously hurt.

At it's best, Colorado's 11,000 foot Red Mountain pass is treacherous. But on this day it was covered in ice.

Linda Sullivan says, "For just the last couple of miles, they had been snowy roads, maybe even with a little bit of water on top. Prior to that, the road had just been wet."

Skip Garcia was driving behind the minivan and he rounded a corner and noticed the van was gone. Garcia says he saw tire tracks going over the mountainside and when he looked down, he saw the van. He and his wife called for help.

Sam Rushing of Ouray Mountain Rescue responded. He says, "We were expecting the worst, and in my wildest imagination I would have never have expected this scenario. I have been on the team 13 years I have never seen this."

The task then became to get the occupants out of the ravine.

Everyone in the van was able to get out and walk away, with the exception of Linda Sullivan. Rescuers used a sled to pull her up.

"I was pretty dazed," she says. "I think just my arm had been caught. So I think the circulation had been cut off for a little bit, and I was feeling pretty woozy. Actually, my daughter helped me get out of the van, and they all had me sit down and cover me up.

She had to be carried out on a stretcher, but it was a small inconvenience.

"Like God was with us, is what we were thinking." Linda Sullivan says, "We had our seat belts on."

As one rescuer put it: "They must have had an angel watching over them."

The Colorado State Patrol says several things helped the people survive. They were all wearing their seat belts and that kept them from being ejected. And the snow helped to cushion the van and possibly keep it from rolling over multiple times.
  • Tatiana Morales

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