Alex Conlin saved an unnamed individual after a sinkhole opened, causing them to fall 30 feet into an old mine shaft.
Just after 6PM on Sunday, a man was attempting to access a storage facility when the ground opened up beneath him. The unidentified individual fell 30 feet into the darkness below, landing in an old abandoned mine shaft. Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue wrote that “the bottom of this pit had substantial ice and water creating a very cold situation as well as unstable edges and sides of the pit.”
Leadville Public Works director Michael Irwin said the event was very unusual, though not unheard of. “It’s a possibility that at one point it had opened up in the wintertime and it was just covered with ice and the ice fell in,” he said. “…But this is really off the wall crazy. Usually, they happen in back yards or things like that.”
Leadville firefighter intern Alex Conlin was one of the first on the scene and willingly stepped forward to descend the hazardous hole. Within five minutes, Conlin was rigged with safety gear, and rappelling toward the victim. When he arrived, he found the man; cold, shocked, and distressed.
“He was very in shock from walking to the storage unit to falling straight through asphalt all the way down in that sinkhole,” Conlin told local CBS affiliate Channel 4. “I was just keeping him calm and letting him know that we’re going to get out of here soon.”
Approximately 90 minutes later, Conlin and the man were lifted out. Both were treated for hypothermia at the scene, before the victim was airlifted to a Denver hospital. He is expected to make a full recovery. Fire Chief Daniel Dailey said he was not surprised to learn of Conlin’s heroic act. “I’m not really surprised about that, he’s a fine individual,” Dailey told Channel 4. Conlin said he was just following a simple fire service adage.
“We have a saying in the fire service: risk a lot to save a life, risk a little to save a little and risk nothing to save that what’s already lost,” he said. “Looking down in that hole, me and my captain were on the same page that this is a ‘risk a lot to save a lot’ decision.”