GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KDVR) — A Broomfield mountain biker is counting his blessings after surviving the elements and a broken leg while alone in the middle of the Moab desert.
David Ignatew broke his femur and used a tire inner tube and an air pump as a splint. Ignatew is no novice on a mountain bike.
“I raced mountain bikes as a pro for years,” Ignatew said. He said he’s been to Moab, Utah, more than 45 times and is very familiar with trails there.
“On the entire trail loop, it’s about 17.5 miles, and I was about 8.7 in,” Ignatew said.
It was there he encountered an incline in the trail.
“The bike’s back-end skipped out from underneath me,” Ignatew said. He braced himself with his left leg, but he fell backward with his leg remaining in place.
“That’s when my femur snapped,” Ignatew said.
With a broken leg, the blazing Utah sun overhead and in the middle of nowhere, Ignatew faced overwhelming odds.
“You are in really big trouble, because you do not have cell phone coverage, you’re alone and there will be nobody coming on this trail,” Ignatew said.
How to survive a broken leg while alone in the desert
His first task was to keep his leg straight.
“I grabbed my spare tube and started to hook that around the pump, wrapped that tube around my leg,” Ignatew made a makeshift splint with an inner tube.
“I had to crawl on my butt and the back of my hands,” Ignatew said.
His next task was to let someone know his location.
“My first thought was: Start a signal fire,” Ignatew said. He found a shrub and, using a lighter, he ignited a beacon that would eventually burn out.
“That’s when the dread started to set in because I thought: I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Ignatew said. But at that point, Ignatew said despair led to determination.
“I’m not kidding, I probably said a hundred times: Just keep moving if you want to live,” Ignatew said.
Ignatew crawled for two hours and covered 150 yards, finally finding a cell phone signal.
“I went through a process of losing that signal and then re-calling them back about six times,” Ignatew said.
One call went through long enough for first responders to geo-locate him, and crews were on their way.
“I could hear the helicopter coming,” Ignatew said.
Alone and in the dark, crews found him and flew him to a hospital in Grand Junction.
“They literally saved my life that night,” Ignatew said.
Ignatew had surgery to repair his broken femur but is in recovery. He and his wife plan to make the drive back to Broomfield Friday.