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Hunter rescued in high country

An Oklahoma hunter who sustained a severe head injury was airlifted out of the Weminuche Wilderness Sunday and eventually taken to a Denver hospital.

A 911 call received by Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Sunday morning reported that the hunter, James Edward Smith, had fallen off of his horse, hitting his head on a rock upon landing, said Diane Bigley, the rescue’s incident commander.

The incident occurred around 8:30 a.m. Sunday in the area south of Fourmile Lake, about four miles up the Fourmile Trail, where Smith and his hunting partner were camping and hunting, Bigley said.

After the injury, the second hunter left Smith and walked to the Fourmile trailhead in order to find cell phone service to call 911.

“Due to the nature of the reported injury, we called out all the search and rescue groups in Pagosa and also ordered a medical helicopter,” Bigley said of the rescue organization.

While the helicopter was dispatched and making its way to the scene, two horse teams, two ground teams and an ATV team, altogether consisting of 28 rescuers from Pagosa Springs, began working their way toward the victim.

Participating in the search were Archuleta County Incident Management, Upper San Juan Search and Rescue, Colorado Mounted Search and Rescue and the Colorado Mounted Rangers.

The helicopter was successful in reaching and extracting Smith, who was immediately flown to Mercy Regional Medical Center and subsequently air lifted to Denver, Bigley said.

“Everything went off without a hitch,” Bigley said of the rescue.

Bigley reported that the latest she knew of the victim’s status was that he had improved slightly, but had sustained severe injuries.

Edwards’ horse was also injured in the fall, but, after consulting with a local veterinarian, it was determined that the animal’s injuries were not life threatening.

The second hunter retrieved the duo’s horses and belongings the following day.