State Patrol Honors CDOT Employee, Two Troopers

April 19, 2013 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - DENVER, COLORADO – The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) has honored three men, two of them CSP employees and one an employee of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), for their quick and effective actions that saved the life of a motorist following a vehicle accident on SH 17 near Cumbres Pass in southern Colorado on Feb. 9, 2013.

Honored during ceremonies at the State Patrol Academy in Golden on April 11 were CDOT employee Jeff Mondragon of rural Antonito, CSP Trooper Brent Gilleland of Manassa, and CSP Technician Garth Crowther of rural La Jara.  Mondragon received the CSP’s highest civilian award, the Certificate of Honor, while Gilleland and Crowther received the CSP’s Life Saving Award.

The accident along SH 17 occurred on a windy, snowy, and cold Saturday when visibility was near zero at times.  Mondragon, in the course of plowing snow in tandem with co-worker Rudy Martinez, happened to spot the roof of a vehicle at the bottom of a steep embankment off the highway during a brief respite in the wind.  Trooper Gilleland, who was with his family in a vehicle following the snowplows, and Technician Crowther, who was on patrol nearby, joined Mondragon in responding to the accident, in which the female driver was critically injured.

Even getting to the vehicle was risky for the three responders, who several times had to go up and down the steep slope in near waist-deep snow in conditions that the State Patrol noted would normally not be attempted by anyone without technical climbing equipment.  They helped keep the patient warm, aided by blankets and warm clothes from their vehicles and from other motorists who stopped on the roadway above.

The rescue was also aided by snowmobilers who were in the area and who packed a more stable route up to the highway when it was time to move the injured woman to an ambulance that had been dispatched to the scene from La Jara, nearly 45 miles away in the San Luis Valley.  The vehicle was nearly the length of a football field off the highway and about 50 vertical feet down.

The motorist was transported to a local hospital and was airlifted to a Denver-area hospital where she recovered from her injuries.

Mondragon, who was also honored for his actions following the accident by the Colorado Transportation Commission during its meeting in Denver on March 21, noted, “I can’t really say why I happened to notice the car, or why the wind died down for a few moments right then.  I guess it was just meant to be.”