Driver survives 60-foot plunge into coulee

Carbon Coulee Accident

Carbon and Linden Fire Departments were dispatched to an accident scene on Friday evening, July 6 at around 9:24 p.m. A vehicle had pitched over an embankment after a perilous journey through fences, fields, and highways, finally entering a barley field on the north side of Hwy 575, about a quarter mile east of Hwy 21.

Alcohol was not a factor and the lone occupant, a female driver was experiencing medical related distress. She was driving a black two-door Saturn.

The vehicle was westbound from Drumheller at the time she lost control of the vehicle, putting her in harms way numerous times as she hit a ditch, taking out the ‘stop sign ahead’ before crossing Hwy 21 and backtracking southeast through a fence and into a field south of Hwy 575, before exiting that field, going through another fence and jumping the ditch onto Hwy 575. Impact marks on the highway show where the vehicle hit the pavement before touching down in the ditch to the north side, where her back bumper gouged out some dirt. Her speed seemed unaffected as the vehicle went through another fence, entering the barley field and speeding headlong toward the coulee to the east of the field. The vehicle had enough speed to fly over the embankment (not riding it down), landing on its nose and flipping onto its roof. The vehicle landed in a mud hole, the only one in the immediate area without major water in it.

Her erratic driving had been observed by a local farmer, who followed her and called the incident into police. The police then dispatched emergency services when her vehicle disappeared over the embankment.

The rescue was just as dramatic as her route getting there and it was fortunate that her route was witnessed, as otherwise, she may not have been located so quickly.

The vehicle had some cushioning when it hit the muddy bottom of the coulee and the air bags inflated, but the roof on the drivers side door was crushed and she was hanging from her seat belt. Rescuers had to cut the straps and extract her from the passenger side door. The depth of coulee at this location was a vertical 60 feet. Multiple fire and rescue vehicles drove down into the coulee and the patient had to be loaded onto a back board and into the back of a pick up truck to get her up the coulee and into a waiting ambulance. Ambulances are not outfitted with four-wheel drive. STARS had been dispatched and landed on Hwy 575, just to the east side of Hwy 21. Her injuries were serious but not life-threatening.

It was the next day that a tow truck arrived to remove the vehicle. A Carbon firefighter was on scene at the time and was able to help with the vehicle’s removal.

Carbon Fire Department responded to five calls since Tuesday, July 3, including this incident. Other calls included a grass fire and three medical assists. There had been a two vehicle collision at the Acme Hwy 575 and Hwy 806 intersection on the Thursday evening at 9:27 p.m. in which Linden Fire and Rescue and Acme Fire Department were the responders.

Rescues from the bottom of coulees can definitely put strain on the volunteer fire fighters. In this incident, the patient was loaded into the back of a pick up truck as it would have been quite strenuous to carry an injured person up a steep slope with unsure footing. Carbon Fire attended a similar call last summer in which a male had been fixing fence and had the quad roll on him. With the ambulance unable to drive down, carrying the patient up that 60 feet, on a back board took six men. In full gear, and sometimes extreme temperatures, it would be exhausting to walk up that height when not carrying a patient.