Is it just me, or is this a crappy thing to do to a tourist?

First, here’s the story from Westwood One’s MetroSource news service:

OK, as a Colorado native, I, too, get damn tired of tourists doing stupid stuff and then needing to be rescued. But Seals wasn’t doing anything stupid. He was on a marked trail, observing all the trail rules and signs, and sprained his ankle. It happens. He couldn’t walk down the rest of the trail, and his friends couldn’t carry him. So, the rescuers were called. And then they billed him for doing what taxpayers pay them to do! What the hell!? Seems to me like a pretty shitty thing to do to a visitor.

Would a local also be billed? Maybe it’s a notion of “our emergency services are paid with local taxes, so if you don’t pay those taxes your emergency services aren’t prepaid.”

Under that concept, it’s not so different from countries where locals get some sort of Social Security coverage for medical expenses but a visitor won’t. Sucks? Yes. Makes sense? Too…

I’d think that if he had medical insurance it’d cover the rescue bill.

That’s a pretty shitty thing to do to anyone, tourist or not.

Nope, not that I’ve ever heard. Rescues are not medical care.

Rescue fees are a sore subject in a lot of places. In NH where I do most of my hiking no one has to pay unless it is determined that they were “reckless” in some way. The few people that this has been applied to were clearly beyond what most people would consider safe but there are enough gray areas to keep lawyers busy for a long time.

If he was on a regular hiking trail, how did he end up on a 600 foot cliff? I think there’s more to this story.

The thing to remember is that in Colorado, a huge part of taxes – sales, property, etc. – are paid with tourism dollars. These people are our guests. We ask them to come here and spend millions and millions of dollars every year enjoying the scenery we seem to think of as our very own. The least we can do is take care of them, as any good host would do, when they get hurt doing that.

Like I said, being stupid is one thing – skiing out-of-bounds, hiking off the trails, motoring where there aren’t roads – and it often puts rescuers at risk to save people from their own stupidity. I have no qualms about charging them for the cost of rescue. But as far as I know, Mr. Seals was hiking by the rules.

Sorry, it’s common here to have coverage for these types of emergencies (afaik), I guess I just assumed it would be there as well.

I agree that the must be more to the story. Ending up on a 600 foot cliff where rescue by ATV or on foot is not easy makes me thing they were off the trail.

I might quibble with the amount of the original bill ($5100, right?), although it might be fair for the services rendered. I’ve had a few rides in EMS ambulances - no rescues, just come get me and take me to the ER. There was a bill each time, even though I was a taxpayer in that jurisdiction. On the occasion that my insurance didn’t pay, I was liable for the bill, and paid it. (All 3 bills were around $700-800.)

The fee doesn’t cover all their costs; part of my annual real estate tax bill goes directly to the support of the local fire/ambulance district. So I guess everybody chips in through real estate taxes, and those who make use of the service pay a little extra.

I’m just glad that there are people out there in EMS and in the emergency rooms, ready to save the lives of strangers in the middle of the night (or off the face of a cliff, eh?).

The trail wound around the side of the mountain. Remember, he’d severely sprained his ankle and had to be carried out. Rather than carry him on a stretcher for several miles, the rescuers roped him over the cliff in a basket – it was faster, but required climbing expertise. Here’s the story from the Denver Post and your’re right, there is more to the story – but it doesn’t make the Golden Fire Department look any better.

If he had purchased a Colorado Search and Rescue Card for $3, then it would appear most (if not all) of the rescue cost would have been waived.

That’s a great idea. I’ve never heard of it, but you can bet I’ll pick one up before I go up into the high country next summer.

I’m really surprised they haven’t publicized the card more; it makes good financial sense and it’s not at all expensive. It would be nice if more of the news articles about search & rescue operations in Colorado would mention the card.

Uhhh… I don’t think that card does anything than confirm that you’ve made a donation to some sort of charity or fund to help pay for search and rescue teams. The site says that it is not insurance nor does it reimburse individuals.

I think it is unconscionable that the government would charge someone for a rescue, provided that they were behaving responsibly. This is exactly how I’m afraid Libertaria would work. I wonder if I got mugged in that town whether I’d have to pay the police department to assign a detective to the case.

I’ve been on plenty of regular hiking trails that run alongside big cliffs that would preclude simple rescue. In one case, 3,000+ feet down.

Well, the article does specifically say that he was charged because the rescue occured outside of Golden, not because he was not a resident of the town:

On the other hand, I’m willing to bet a disproportionate number of out-of-district rescues involve tourists, and like Sunrazor said, tourists spend money. City of Golden website seems to indicate their FD is ‘first to respond’ for this trail (unless I misread something, I don’t know the area). Seems like this isn’t exactly an isolated incident for them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they’re loosing money having to rescue tourists all the time, but you would think they could spread the cost outs via sales tax or park entrance fees or something.


I reside in New York State. Let’s say…I’m driving down the 110 heading to Glendale, CA as I was last week. I’m slammed into by a truck, pinned in my car and badly injured. The entire gamut is run: I am cut out of the vehicle by the Fire Dept. I am boarded and kept alive by experienced LA Paramedics. I am flown to a Level 1 Trauma Center and kept alive. ( I was not, did not. But I coulda… )

You’re telling me that because I do not pay Los Angeles County taxes that I am stuck for the bill for everything? You know what? That is utter bullshit and I know it.

How? I’m a retired EMT and officer in the local volunteer ambulance corps. I SAW the billing procedures. We’d bill, and collect voluntarily. If the patient could submit to their insurance, great. If not? Not.

If this person was not doing something considered risky or inappropriate, then they are due the support offered by any municipality.

Anything less is somewhere between quite niggardly and outright irresponsible.


I’ve hiked in the southwest (Colorado, NM, Arizona) and it’s pretty common for marked trails to follow a ridge and have quite a remarkable ascent. Like you’d have a 400 foot ascent on only a mile-long trail.

One I’ve hiked is within Albuquerque’s city limits (I think) and follows the escarpment up 840 feet in only 2.5 miles. Some of them follow the ridges of a cliff face. Hurt yourself and it’s a major pain in the ass to get out of there in a timely way.

All I was going on was the article and the comment. I hike all over the US and beyond, I know how it’s possible to end up on a cliff or the need to have a rescue that doesn’t stay on trail.

But it sounded perhaps like he was doing some climbing off a popular trail and needed rescue. It happens here all the time, young males (usually) see some neat cliff faces and decide to have fun after their one lesson in rock climbing. They get stuck, need rescue, etc. That was my first assumption, but it appears not to be the case here.

I don’t think around here you’d ever receive a bill for something like a twisted ankle that required a rescue, no matter how expensive it ended up being. You’d have to do something objectively reckless to qualify for that. Most S&R people want injured hikers to call for help when they need it, not wait until nightfall or the situation gets worse before calling in help.

There was a similar thread (in GQ) a few months ago about adventurers getting charged for mountain rescue. In that thread I mentioned that the NewWest website mentions that five states have charge-for-rescue laws (California, Hawaii, Idaho, New Hampshire, and Oregon).

But even those are evaluated case by case. For the most part, it’s treated based on “recklessness”. The NH statutes were aimed mostly for the costs associated with intentionally creating a situation requiring an emergency situation and was aimed more at drunk drivers and “hostage-takers” (no shit, that’s what the article I quoted in the previous thread said). Only extreme cases of recklessness get referred to the Attorney General.

Basically, you have to be that douchebag everyone reads about in the newspapers who knowingly ignores the “thin ice” signs and all the media coverage of recent rescues and goes out onto the barely frozen lake anyway.

Some major park systems also have permit requirements for “back country” hiking. The whole point of paying for those permits is so the money they collect goes towards rescue costs. In some areas, the price can be hefty. I’m paying $7 to do some back country hiking next month, but if I wanted to climb Mt. McKinley, I’d have to pay $200.

I think all those resuce companies are scammers. And it’s not visible politically, because they only screw over a relative few people and only once each.
I was nailed by an ambulance that the cops called for me when a hit-and-run totaled my car and I broke a rib and a thumb. They could have put me in a cab, as I could sit still with no pain. but the cops and EMTs were ordering me arround. They billed me $1,060 to go less than a mile to the emergency room. I waited there for over an hour and when I was still not attended to I left and slowly walked a couple miles home (my wallet was still in the car, now in a tow impound lot, so I couln’t get a cab at that point).

So, since I never agreed to $1,060 I never paid. They eventually gave up calling me, and the city sucked it up. Somebody needs to control this, but I don’t know who to complain to.