Colo. FF rappels down 30-foot sinkhole to rescue man

Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue Firefighter Alex Conlin braved extremely cold and dangerous conditions to save the man from the pit

By Laura French

LEADVILLE, Colo. — A Colorado firefighter performed a daring rescue Thursday by rappelling down into a 30-foot sinkhole to save a man who had fallen in. 

Leadsville/Lake County Fire Rescue crews responded to the scene at a self-storage facility where the man had fallen into the hole while trying to access his storage unit, according to fire officials.

"The bottom of this pit had substantial ice and water creating a very cold situation as well as unstable edges and sides of the pit," officials wrote. 

A rescue plan was implemented that would send Firefighter Alex Conlin to the bottom of the pit to extricate the patient. A 24-foot ladder was placed over the top of the hole to allow for a better view to the bottom, and Conlin rappelled down and secured the patient into safety gear. 

The patient was attached to a safety line attached to a fire engine to keep him from sinking, and Lake County Search and Rescue responders were called to assist with removing Conlin and the patient from the hole. 


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The injured patient was taken by ambulance to the airport where a helicopter airlifted him to a metro area hospital. Conlin was provided rehabilitation treatment after being exposed to the extreme cold during the rescue. 

In a statement, Colin said, "Risk a lot to save a lot, risk a little to save a little, risk nothing to save nothing. Our Department's core ideology is 'first in, last out,' and they train and prepare for how best to handle these and many other types of situations." 

"This was an incredible example of teamwork with all responding agencies to smoothly and safely accomplish this rescue," stated Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue Capt. McCann, who was only identified by last name.

The fire department and search and rescue team were also assisted by Leadville police officers, St. Vincent Ambulance crews, the Lake County Road and Bridge Department and area dispatchers. 


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