COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A stranded driver whose SUV ran off the road unnoticed suffered frostbite on her hands and feet when it took her several painstaking hours to scramble up a few hundred feet out of the canyon to be rescued.
Sandy Mileto, 43, was driving on Colorado 67 headed to Cripple Creek near Colorado Springs when her Jeep apparently hit a patch of black ice and ran off the road around 11p.m. Tuesday.
The Jeep mowed down several aspens, jumped a set of 10-foot tall boulders and left long skid mark for another 50 feet to 100 feet before getting launched again, dropping another 25 feet.
Mileto was knocked unconscious in the crash.
"I have no knowledge of what happened at all," she said.
When she woke up, Mileto was missing a left shoe and had only a blanket to keep her warm.
"It was a moment of life or death - what am I going to do: sit down here and freeze or try to take matters into my own hands," she said.
She pulled herself out of the wreck and struggled to call for help on her cellphone, but she had no signal.
When she tried to make a fire to keep herself warm, gasoline from the Jeep’s tank caught fire, and the whole vehicle burst into flames. The shoeless woman spent the next agonizing few hours climbing a few hundred feet up and over snow-covered rocks and icy gravel, back to the road.
"It was life or death," Mileto said. "I had to decide: How am I going to muster the strength to get up this hill? I didn't see any lights, hear any cars."
"Every step I took was horrific, dangerous," she said. "I was frozen, by then I had lost my shoe on my right foot."
She finally made it up to the highway and waved her blanket when she saw headlights approaching.
A man driving a camper and a Teller County Sheriff’s deputy in his patrol vehicle picked Mileto up, and she was taken to the hospital.
Overnight temperatures were close to zero degrees Tuesday night when Mileto was stranded in the canyon.
Mileto will have to undergo two, 90-minute hyperbaric chamber sessions every day for up to four days. The hope is that the treatments will re-oxygenate the skin so they can save her frostbitten toes.