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'He's saying hi... doesn't seem to be in distress': Man lost in Colorado wilderness almost left behind by rescue helicopter

Man lost in Colorado wilderness almost gets left behind by rescue helicopter
Man lost in Colorado wilderness almost gets left behind by rescue helicopter 02:19

A crew called 911 for help Wednesday morning after someone from a hunting party didn't come back to camp Tuesday night somewhere between Surprise Lake and Upper Cataract Lake.


Flight for Life made a quick scouting mission but wasn't able to find the man. They loaded up a hiker and called for a Blackhawk helicopter filled with seven other hiking search and rescue members from Summit Rescue Group, as well as sending a few crew members on the trail to search for the lost man. 

According to rescue crews, the hunters were off trail in swampy dense foliage; so, the ground search was taking time. Thankfully, the Blackhawk pilot spotted someone they believed could be the missing man. 

"He radioed that they had a subject that partially matched the description, but not completely only because his backpack was upside down so it was the wrong color, " explained Summit County Rescue Group's Anna Debattiste.

"The real key here is he went like this," Debattiste said, waving slowly and casually.

"The pilot said, 'He's saying hi, he doesn't seem to be in distress,' so they left," she said. 

Thankfully, ground crews were able to find the man shortly afterward regardless, but it was an educational moment Summit County Rescue Group wanted to take advantage of. 

"What he actually should have done was something like this," Debattiste said, waving aggressively with both arms over her head, back and forth, over and over again. "Or waving a brightly colored piece of clothing, something to say 'Hey!! I'm the guy you're looking for!!"

Crews said they found the man, cold, tired and dehydrated but otherwise fine. They said he did do the right thing staying in one spot overnight, then trying to get to a more open area in daylight to help crews find him. 

Another takeaway: carry a map, compass, GPS, or smartphone to help keep your sense of direction while exploring outdoors. Crews report the man had one of the above on him when he got lost. 

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