Cliff jumping experience at Blue Mesa came in handy
By Mark Reaman
A former Crested Butte resident found himself in a situation overseas where he could either jump off a 65-foot cliff next to a waterfall in Europe or watch a man die. He jumped off the cliff.
Former Pita’s in Paradise stalwart, Dusty Ostrand 31, was at the well-known Saut du Doubs waterfall that straddles the Swiss-French border on Sunday, July 22 with his wife, Angela Fioretti, when he saw a man fall from the top of the waterfall and end up 80 feet below in the water. He could tell the man was face-down and unconscious.
Ostrand said he realized a bad situation was unfolding so the former lifeguard stripped down to his shorts, found a ledge and jumped 65 feet into the pulsing water. He landed about 20 feet from the other man.
“It was like jumping off of Running Man at Blue Mesa,” Dusty explained through an email. “The drop was 65 feet from the lower ledge where I jumped off. For me there was no hesitation.”
“There was only hesitation because I was arguing with you not to do it,” added Angela.
Dusty, a former kitchen manager who still has a drink named after him in Pita’s, had trained as a Junior Lifeguard at Strands Beach in Dana Point, Calif. “I knew I had to get to him as quickly as possible so I could flip him over and get his face out of the water,” he recalled. “I was wondering if I would have to do CPR. Within five minutes I had him out of the water and pulled up onto a rock on the shore.”
In hindsight, Angela was glad Dusty made the jump. “I was initially worried that he might get hurt in the process,” she said. “We had literally just watched a guy fall from the other side and float up unconscious. I really didn’t want Dusty to get hurt. However, the minute I saw the guy fall, and saw the look on Dusty’s face, I knew there was no way I’d talk him out of it. I remember thinking ‘Dusty’s going to want to jump in after him,’ and then he turned to me and said ‘I have to go help him.’ And he did.”
“I’m just glad I got so much practice sending it off cliffs in my life,” said Dusty, who jumped cliffs not only at Blue Mesa but also in Laguna Beach growing up. “It made me confident in the moment that I could make it down there and save the guy.”
A Swiss newspaper reported that three helicopters landed at the falls to assist in the rescue. The injured man, who ended up with bruises and a broken arm, was hospitalized in Besancon. Several witnesses interviewed by the paper described the courage of Dusty and his role in saving a life.
Overall, the episode lasted about an hour. “It took probably 45 minutes total from the time I saw the guy fall to when the helicopter flew in to airlift him out,” explained Dusty. “Afterward it took another hour or so to hike out, get checked by the paramedics, and finish talking with the French police.”
As for second thoughts, ”I believe I made the right choice, and I’m glad I did it,” Dusty said. He hasn’t seen the man he saved since the helicopter flew off. “No contact has been made, but the reporter I spoke with out here said she would be passing along my contact info in case he wants to reach out.”
Dusty moved to Crested Butte in 2007 and lived here until 2013, working at Pita’s and helping with events like Vinotok. He and Angela plan to spend two more years in Europe.