The man was found by fellow hiker John Utsey, who helped rescue crews locate him

By Rachel DeSantis
August 19, 2020 11:13 AM
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Santa Fe Fire Department crews with the rescued hiker
| Credit: Santa Fe Fire Department/ Facebook

An injured hiker was rescued after spending two weeks stranded in Santa Fe National Forest thanks to a determined father who stumbled upon the man’s makeshift campground.

It took a nine-hour trail rescue to get to the man, who suffered chronic back pain and became stranded after he injured his back mid-hike and could not stand or walk, according to the Santa Fe Fire Department.

Authorities said he had his gear stolen, and became “lost and disoriented” before he was found by fellow hiker John Utsey.

Utsey told CBS/Fox affiliate KRQE he was hiking Windsor Trail with his two children on Saturday when they heard the man’s cries for help.

“I called [my daughter’s] name, and she didn’t call back to me, so I called her name really loud and then I heard her yell back to me from way up around the corner… Then, I heard somebody else answer from way off the trail,” he recalled.

Utsey told the outlet that he and the unidentified voice yelled back and forth for about 20 minutes before he finally found the man and provided him with food and water.

“I’m not sure he had more than a day or two left,” Utsey said of the man’s condition. “He was lying beside a creek… he couldn’t stand, he couldn’t move. He was delirious, so he wasn’t making much sense. His lips were all chapped to the point they were bleeding. His tongue was swollen; he was super gaunt and skinny. I was like, ‘This guy really needs help.’”

The man was at least 50 years old, and relied on his filtering water bottle to survive, as he was able to “wiggle” his way to a nearby stream to refill it, Cpt. Nathan Garcia of the Santa Fe Fire Department told KRQE.

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Utsey and his children hiked three miles to the trailhead so that they could call 911, and within an hour, firefighters arrived on the scene to rescue the man, KRQE reported.

Though they searched for eight hours, the crew was reportedly forced to pause their hunt when it proved unsuccessful, prompting Utsey to join them the next morning to lead rescuers directly to the man.

“Never had we found somebody who had been out for that long,” Garcia told KRQE. “The human body can do some amazing things sometimes, but I don’t think he had very much left in him. He seemed kind of at the end when we actually did encounter him.”

Once they found the man, crews built a fire in order to raise his body temperature, which had dipped “dangerously” low over the last 14 days, the fire department said.

The man, who is an experienced hiker, is reportedly recovering at a Santa Fe hospital.