The parents of a hiker seriously injured after a fall on Wilson Peak credit nearby hikers, rescuers and doctors for saving their son’s life.
About 11 a.m. on Sept. 26, Joseph Ferrara of Telluride took a bad fall in a rugged scree field while hiking solo near the summit.
He is recovering from a serious head injury, said his dad, Joe Ferrara, and does not remember the accident.
“At first, the doctors said it did not look good, then the second week he opened his eyes and has been talking,” Ferrara said. “It’s a miracle he survived. His whole body is banged up. It will be a long road to recovery, and we are feeling hopeful.”
Ferrara, 30, had a contusion to his head, two broken ribs, a broken wrist, a deep knee wound and trauma to his neck. He had surgery on his neck and wrist, his dad said.
Ferrara was treated at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction and has been transferred to Craig Hospital in Denver, which specializes in neurological injuries. He has been hospitalized five weeks.
According to a family post on CaringBridge, his recovery, which includes speech and physical therapy is progressing.
The family is “forever thankful” for rescue efforts, his dad said, especially for a hiker named Michael, who was below Ferrara when he heard rockfall.
Michael climbed up to assist him, and yelled and blew a whistle to alert anybody nearby, but no one responded. There was no cellphone service at the accident location.
Michael set out to find help and get a cell signal. He ran into a group of hikers that included an EMT.
A call got out to emergency dispatch, then Michael and the EMT hiker returned to the injured Ferrara. Rescuers arrived soon after via helicopter.
“There are angels on this Earth,” Joe Ferrara said.
Climber Matt Bleifuss witnessed the rescue effort as he came off Gladstone Peak to the south. He said the helicopter was dropping off rescuers and a dozen people were attending to the injured climber.
Ferrara is an experienced hiker. He has a degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech, and a master’s in business. After working as an engineer at Pratt and Whitney, he found a new calling seeking outdoor adventure out West, his dad said.
He rode his bike from Connecticut to San Diego, “dipped his tire in the ocean,” then hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. He landed an engineering job in Telluride working on the chairlift equipment, and embraced the local lifestyle of skiing, biking and climbing mountains.
“That’s why he survived – his strong spirit, strong heart and body. It’s a testament to his health,” Ferrara said. “He was not a novice and had climbed many 14ers. How he fell is a mystery, maybe something out of his control like rockfall.”
His son also has a passion for healthy eating and posted instructional videos about the topic.
About two dozen people including San Miguel Sheriff’s Office deputies, San Miguel County Search and Rescue volunteers and Telluride Fire Protection District personnel, responded to the rescue. Several hikers from different groups stopped to assist throughout the mission.
A Mountain Blade Runner helicopter airlifted rescue teams into the field, and a Telluride Fire Protection District paramedic and rescuers made contact with the patient about 1:40 p.m.
A low-angle technical rope rescue was required over a scree field, and the patient was airlifted back to the Telluride airport, then transfered to Careflight medics, who then flew the patient to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.
Multiple layers of simultaneous operations were necessary for what turned out to be a five-hour mission, said San Miguel Sheriff Bill Masters.
He said a ground team was inserted into the area for contingency purposes, and additional teams were on standby at the staging area at the Telluride airport.
“I can’t thank them enough. The rescuers and the doctors at St Mary’s are angels. My son is alive because of the job they do. We are joyful he is still here with us and on the road to recovery,” Ferrara said.