Steamboat Springs Craig Horlacher, the man who spent at least four days stranded in northern Routt County, reportedly ate several raw fish and attempted to send his backpack downstream with a note to draw attention to his plight.
Friends of the 57-year-old Horlacher reported Friday that he appears to be doing well a little more than a week after Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers pulled him from the water near the confluence of the Tennessee Creek and Middle Fork of the Little Snake River on Aug. 12.
Horlacher had a broken leg that prevented him from leaving the remote area where he was fishing alone.
Lynette Gilbert, Horlacher’s neighbor and friend in Wheat Ridge who initially reported him missing, said Horlacher was lucid and talking Aug. 13 after he was taken by air ambulance to St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver.
“By Friday afternoon his numbers were looking great,” she said. “He had warmed up and was doing well.”
Horlacher suffered some suspected hypothermia and pneumonia, and doctors also were working to fix his leg. Gilbert said that since Aug. 13, however, his condition has deteriorated. He remains in the ICU, but Gilbert said he still is expected to make a full, albeit slow, recovery.
Gilbert said that while he was awake and talking, Horlacher said that he definitely broke his leg at about 1:15 p.m. Aug. 7. Rescuers initially thought Horlacher had been in the water since the day before that.
He also reported yelling and trying to get the attention of anybody who might be in the area.
“At one point he put a note on his backpack and floated it down the stream so somebody could rescue him,” Gilbert said.
He also said he ate several raw fish to stay alive during that time.
When rescuers found Horlacher early Aug. 12, he was breathing but mostly incoherent.
“He didn’t remember the rescue exactly,” Gilbert said. “He had some thoughts about noises and helicopters, nothing he could talk about directly.”
Gilbert said Horlacher was very grateful to all the rescuers who looked for him and pulled him out of the steep canyon.
“He said he’s going to buy everybody a beer and a steak,” she said.
Horlacher’s co-worker and friend Terry Laverty, who also helped Gilbert notify the authorities, said there was a delay in getting notification from Wheat Ridge, where he was reported missing, to rescuers in Routt County.
“In my opinion, Craig could have been found a day sooner than he was,” Laverty said.
Gilbert reported Horlacher missing the morning of Aug. 10 after he had not returned in time for work the previous day. He had left his itinerary with Gilbert, as he often does. She said she wasn’t worried when he didn’t return the evening of Aug. 8 because he has a somewhat flexible work schedule, but when he wasn’t back Aug. 9 she became concerned. On Aug. 10 she went to Wheat Ridge police but said she didn’t get an immediate response.
On Aug. 11, when she had not heard anything, she started calling Routt County agencies. She talked to workers at the Colorado Division of Wildlife office in Steamboat Springs who remembered talking to Horlacher about where to fish locally. She said nobody in Routt County had been notified of Horlacher’s disappearance, so she and Laverty began making the calls themselves.
According to a report from the Wheat Ridge Police Department, Gilbert told the
reporting officer that Horlacher was going to be fishing either on the Snake River north of Steamboat or at the North Platte area near North Park. The officer who took the report Aug. 10 sent the missing person report to Moffat County, but didn’t send the report to Routt and Jackson counties until Aug. 11, after Gilbert returned to the police station.
Laverty said he spoke to a deputy with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office who said he would start looking for the car. By about 7 p.m. Aug. 11, deputies had found Horlacher’s Subaru and worked with Search and Rescue volunteers to search the area.
Searchers said they worked late into the night Aug. 11, coming within a few hundred yards of Horlacher without seeing him. They resumed the search Aug. 12 and found him partially submerged in the water.