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Tower 5 is about 680 yards down the hill from Eagle's Nest. Patrolmen Mikottis and Stanish hurriedly put on their red patrol parkas. Stanish took a walkie-talkie and stepped into his skis. He grabbed a toboggan equipped with blankets and splints and raced down the sunny slope to the scene. Mikottis stayed behind to load a collapsible steel-backboard stretcher and a special emergency trauma kit on another toboggan. Two minutes after Stanish disappeared down the hill, Mikottis also was on his way, pulling his toboggan. Less than three minutes had elapsed since the cars fell.
Dave Stanish got to the scene and saw the cars on the ground. He glanced up and saw the two cars hanging precariously above. He looked into the gondola nearest the base of Tower 5. "It was a gory mess inside," he recalled. "I looked at the car down the hill. There was a guy just crawling out of a window. There was a lot of moaning. I yelled down to him, 'Is anyone killed in there?' He said no. I radioed in: 'Major medical emergency! Major medical emergency!' It was the ultimate alarm that I could come up with."
Within seconds Hesseltine transmitted an all-points bulletin of the disaster at Lionshead over the Vail Associates' radio system and by telephone. Drivers of the mountain-grooming cats and tractors heard it. Offices of the ski school heard it. The Vail police department, fire department and the medical clinic got the word. Ambulance drivers started their vehicles. Pete Burnett, head of the Vail Public Works Department, heard it, and within moments had snowplow crews on the mile-long back-street route where ambulances would be shuttling victims from the lower mountain to the clinic. "I want those streets plowed down and shaved so clear you can see asphalt!" yelled Burnett. Within two minutes there was activity all over the village and mountain in response to Dave Stanish's cry of alarm.
Jim Fish, 40, a cat driver who had just finished hauling supplies to the restaurant at Eagle's Nest, gunned his tractor down the hill to Tower 5, leaped off his cat and followed Stanish to the two cars. "One car was upside down," he said. "Stanish was checking things real quick to see who was worst off. I went down to the other car. This car was buried and the door wouldn't come open. I had a little short shovel from the cat and I dug and dug like crazy. The door was still stuck shut, so I grabbed it and I twisted it off. Then I went back to the other car. Stanish was in it already. I reached in and got one guy by the belt. The people were heaped inside there like spaghetti. The thing was to try to get them some air. They were on top of each other."
Mikottis arrived and went to help Stanish, who had forced his way into the uphill car, No. 60, which had landed upside down. "When I got in there, there wasn't much room and I tried to break the window to get more access," Stanish said. "There wasn't much treatment we could do. I checked all the life signs and cleaned out some blood and mucus from a couple of people who were hurt. Mainly we just tried to get them out without hurting them any more than they already were."
"We could see right away two people were dead," Mikottis said. "The younger girl was under them. She was bleeding heavily from the mouth. She was breathing in shallow gasps. When Dave had the windows kicked out, we moved a guy that was on top of her and started trying to get some of the other people off her. Just then a guy skied over. He identified himself as a doctor and he said, 'Don't move them. I think they have broken necks.' And I said, 'If we don't move 'em out, that girl is going to die under them.' " The skiing doctor moved to help the other wounded.
Moments later, another doctor arrived with his wife, who said she was a nurse. Together, she and Mikottis worked over Janice Pasterkamp. The nurse began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, while Mikottis pumped at the girl's heart. There was no hope; the internal bleeding was too heavy. Janice died.
Tourists and a couple of other cat drivers arrived on the scene, and they asked if they could help. The snow was waist-deep since the area was not in the customary line of skiing and had not been packed. Once ski patrolmen and rescuers stepped out of their skis, they sank to their waists in the soft snow, floundering about as they tried to help. The deep snow had acted as a cushion for the falling-cars and possibly saved lives, but for the rescuers it was nightmarish. Mikottis shouted to some skiers to stamp out an area where the injured could be laid out.
Stanish and Mikottis and the skiing doctors sorted out the more critically hurt, most of whom were unconscious, and began administering first aid. "We kept working, taking care of the worst-injured people, trying to keep everybody alive," recalled Mikottis. "I knew more patrolmen would be coming in a couple of minutes. Every time I saw a red jacket—I didn't need to see the face—I knew things were getting better."
Within moments, half a dozen patrolmen were on the scene. Some had brought toboggans to carry the injured down. Some carried packs with first-aid kits and narcotics. They began helping Stanish, Mikottis and the doctors with splints, backboards, shots of Demerol and morphine. Ski instructors who had heard the call and cat drivers began cordoning off the accident area with the help of volunteers. No more than 10 minutes had passed since the cars fell.