Seat belts are being credited for saving six people after their vehicle slid off a mountain pass and dropped 400 feet down a sheer cliff Saturday afternoon, the Colorado State Patrol said.
Five of the victims were able to get out of the wrecked vehicle and climb 400 feet back up the cliff with help from rescuers with Ouray Search and Rescue. One person who was lifted up in a rescue stretcher was walking around the hospital a few hours later in good condition, the CSP said.By 6:30 p.m. all six victims were released from the hospital and on the road again -- all of them with just bumps and bruises.The group was traveling from Durango to Montrose on Highway 550 Red Mountain Pass, about 6.6 miles south of Ouray, when the accident occurred around 4 p.m.The victims were identified as two families from Montrose returning from a basketball game. Terry Holman was sitting in the front passenger seat and said that he thought they would all die when the van plunged down the hill. After the van came to rest, he didn't realize how far it had fallen."Looking up, it didn't look near as far as it did when we looked down," said Holman. "The estimates I've heard, they're saying anywhere from 400 to 500 feet.""I heard him say, 'I'm sorry, we're going over.' Because we were only going about 10 mph at the time and going really slowly. We just lost control, lost traction," said survivor Terry Sullivan.The CSP said the victims are extremely lucky and attributed their miraculous survival to all six wearing seatbelts."After the first roll, and you're still alive, and you still feel it, I said, 'You know, maybe we're OK.' But then you roll again and again. We never stopped, so I kept thinking we've survived every roll it seemed like," said Joe Sullivan.
Passengers walk around shortly after their van plummeted down this embankment. This view is looking straight down from Red Mountain Pass.Slideshow: Look At Other Photos