Red River first responders save woman, daughter in mountain rescue

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Snow is a good thing for the tourism industry at Red River. The iconic Torchlight Parade at the ski area is just one example of how winter weather helps attract folks to town. But more people playing in the mountains comes with more risks.

This past weekend a small group of first responders helped save a woman’s life.

“We cater to the tourists, I mean that’s our bread and butter, is the tourists,” said Deke Willis, chief of the Red River Fire Department. 

By the numbers, the Red River Fire Department is a department in decline.

“Before COVID we had five full-time positions and now basically I have two full-time positions myself and my EMS supervisor,” said Willis. 

He says over 90% of the calls they get are medical emergencies, and this weekend was no different.

“It was Friday the 13th, it was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We got a call from one of our local tour operators saying they had a snowmobile hit a tree and went over the edge,” Willis said. 

The tour company says an 18-year-old girl was driving up to Greenie Peak on Sawmill Mountain when she lost control. Her 52-year-old mom was on the back of the snowmobile and was thrown from the vehicle.

“When I got on scene, there was just one person off the edge a little bit, about probably 30 feet, but they said ‘no that’s not the person that’s hurt, the other person is 200 feet down the hill,’” said Willis. 

Willis took a picture looking down where the woman had fallen. He slowly worked his way down, going from tree to tree until he got to her.

He says she was in rough shape and called in his volunteer firefighters.

“We needed rope rescue, all hands on deck,” said Willis. “They come running when – they can tell by the tone in my voice when I’m on the radio that it’s something important.”

He says eight volunteers responded immediately. Because of them, a couple of hours later the woman was alive and on the way to the hospital.

“If something does happen we’re there. We’re there 24/7 even for a small town, we provide a great service,” said Willis. 

The woman is alive and recovering in the hospital.