Chopper rescue diverted in the end

Helicopter redirected to Silverton after false alarm involving drunken man

Rescue workers prepared for the worst Monday after receiving a call that a man fell off the side of the highway down a steep embankment and needed medical attention near Cascade Creek, 25 miles north of Durango.

A medical helicopter prepared to launch, law enforcement headed toward the scene and rescue workers contemplated a rope rescue.

But the initial report and actual situation don’t always jibe.

Instead of finding a man at the bottom of a steep embankment with life-threatening injuries, rescue workers found a drunken man passed out on the side of the road.

The helicopter was called off, law enforcement stood down, and Jermaine Smith, 20, of New Mexico, was taken to detox, said Melody Skinner, administrator and dispatcher with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident was reported at 9:26 a.m. just north of Cascade Creek, near the base of Coal Bank Pass on U.S. Highway 550.

“What they were dispatched to and what they found were two different things,” said Randy Black, battalion chief with Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.

But the helicopter didn’t fire up its rotor blades for nothing.

Soon after the false alarm, someone in Silverton complained of chest pain, and the helicopter was diverted to assist, Skinner said.

Smith was not cited with a crime, she said.

shane@durangoherald.com