Plaindealer Staff Report
Marston Doolittle, 75, passed away in St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction Thursday evening after injuries sustained on June 27 while hiking with his family near Ouray.
According to Mike MacLeod, Ouray Mountain Rescue Team Captain, the family was "scrambling around kind of at the base of The Ribbon ice climb (adjacent to Camp Bird Road). A pretty good size rock came down and struck him in the head."
Doolittle was from Madrid, Neb., where he still operated a small farming and cattle operation up until the time of his death. The group was hiking to an abandoned mining structure where in 1957, during his first visit to Ouray, Doolittle had etched his name and the year in an old wooden door. According to Doolittle’s son Al, it was a kind of tradition when the family visited Ouray to hike to the secluded spot and see where his father had carved his initials some 55 years before.
According to Molly Nightingale, Doolittle's daughter, the family was preparing to transfer Doolittle to a medical facility near his family in Nebraska at the time of his passing.
MacLeod said it had been an extremely challenging rescue due to the location. MacLeod related that OMR had to drop down into the gorge, cross the river and climb to where Doolittle was located, after which they had to do the reverse while transporting Doolittle in a litter.
Once on Camp Bird Road, Doolittle was placed in an ambulance and transported to the nearby CareFlight helicopter and flown to Grand Junction.
“It was a pretty big, expedited, serious extrication,” MacLeod stated. “It was a big rescue. It’s not an easy task to get somebody from that location. A couple of our experienced team members said it was one of the worst slopes they’ve had to do an extrication on.”
Two other recent hiking accidents occurred in the region, one resulting in another fatality.
One came on Sunday, June 24 around 9:00 a.m. An experienced team of climbers was ascending Coxcomb Peak when a large rock fell and hit the team’s belayer in the back of the head, causing serious injury. The victim of the accident, a male in his early 30s, was wearing a helmet, which MacLeod credited with saving the man’s life.
On Friday June 29, a man in his mid-sixties was making the climb up Mt.Sneffels when he started having difficulty breathing. A short time later, others who were climbing the route came along, one of whom was a doctor. The doctor recognized that the man wasn’t just tired and that something was seriously wrong. Ouray Mountain Rescue sent a team member up on a dirt bike to get to the scene as quickly as possible with a defibrillator, but after coordinating with bystanders to perform CPR for approximately 30 minutes, the doctor pronounced the man dead.
See Molly Nightingale's Letter to the Editor from this week's Plaindealer edition.