DENVER – Kristin Hopkins wrote pleas for help on a red-and-white umbrella that she managed to push through a broken window of her crashed car and open, hoping to attract the attention of drivers on a scenic highway above.
Days later, someone spotted the flipped car of the 43-year-old single mother of four children about 80 feet down an embankment in a central Colorado aspen grove.
Authorities say at least one motorist hiked down from Red Hill Pass on U.S. Highway 285 and alerted authorities on Sunday that there was a body inside the car. Rescuers found Hopkins alive, conscious and coherent – but critically injured and extremely dehydrated.
Hopkins was flown by helicopter to St. Anthony Hospital in suburban Denver, Park County undersheriff Monte Gore said. She was in critical condition Monday, said hospital spokeswoman Loralee Sturm. Hopkins’ family issued a statement saying she will lose both her feet because of injuries sustained in the crash and is expected to survive.
Hopkins drove off the roadway near the old mining town of Fairplay sometime after she was last seen on April 27. The accident occurred beneath a spot overlooking the sprawling ranchlands and surrounding mountains of Colorado’s South Park area.
Her 2009 Chevrolet Malibu struck multiple trees and rolled several times before landing on its top.
Hopkins had been entered into a statewide police database as a missing person. But since she is an adult and there were no indications of foul play, there was no active search for her.
When rescuers reached the car Sunday, firefighter Jim Cravener asked a colleague to break a window and feel for a pulse.
“He started to break the window and she put her hand up to the window,” Cravener said. “At that point, it became a rescue.”
Hopkins’ notes on the umbrella were hard to make out but appeared to say, “six days, no food, no water; please help me; need a doctor,” Cravener said.
“It’s really something off that ‘Shouldn’t Be Alive’ show,” he said. “She really had a strong will to survive.”
Rescuers set to work cutting into the vehicle, pulling out Hopkins and taking her to the helicopter. It was a complicated extrication because of the location, said Cravener.
Hopkins was fairly responsive at first, even telling her rescuers she was not hurt. But they could see her face was badly bruised, possibly by the steering wheel or air bag.
“She didn’t talk a whole lot. She started to become less responsive as we carried her down the hill. We had to keep waking her up,” Cravener said.
The area had spring snow storms but not bitterly cold temperatures in the past several days.
Sightseers often stop at the spot but usually in the fall when the leaves are turning color. It was just by chance that somebody would stop at this time of year, Cravener said.
Her family thanked people for their thoughts and prayers.