Vail rescue group saves family of five and dog stranded atop mountain

Posted at 9:53 PM, Aug 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-30 00:44:07-04

HIGHLANDS RANCH -- When Sarah Brown set out on a three-day backpacking trip with her father and three children, they planned to have an adventure. Just not the one they had.

"My husband was out of town for work, and we just were going out for a long weekend to make memories," said Brown, who is an experienced outdoorswoman. "We hike every weekend. We've climbed 14ers. We ski."

She said they had no trouble on the rugged 4-mile hike to Lake Constantine, in the Holy Cross Wilderness, until they got to camp, and some kind of stomach virus hit with a vengeance.

"I was throwing up probably every 10 minutes for about 20 hours," said Brown. "I was making deals with God saying please, if you make this stop, I will never drink wine ever again."

But as she became dangerously dehydrated, she said, her legs quit working, and things went from bad to worse. Her father, Doug Smith, also became serious ill and realized how serious the situation was.

"When I finally decided to make the call, I said, 'It doesn't matter how much it costs. We've got to get her out of here,'" said Smith.

Just a few hours after the call, the Vail Mountain Rescue Group appeared in a National Guard Helicopter, immediately putting Brown on an IV and giving her medication.

They carried out the entire family of five and their dog out in two trips.

For the kids, it was an adventure they will never forget.

"Well, it was fun. And I was really scared the whole time," said 4-year-old Piper Brown. "We were up really, really high."

Meanwhile, Sarah Brown said she knows now, after her hospital visit, how sick she really was. She said there is no question the rescuers saved her life.

"They're what true heroes really are," she said. "I have a family and three children that need me. They really make a difference in people's lives. "

Dan Smith, the incident commander, said by the time they got there, Brown "needed to get out bad."

He wants people to know that they never charge for rescues.

Also, he said to tell people to call 911 and not a family member if they need help.

The Vail Mountain Rescue Group has 50 volunteers and is funded by donations.

For more information on how to help, click here.