The Far East El Paso dunes of Red Sands are considered a hot spot for off-roading and shooting in summer, but they are also known to be dangerous.
The area is said to have once been the bottom of an ancient sea approximately 34-million years ago. There is no water now, but there are seashell fossils and reddish-brown tinted sand caused by iron oxide deposits.
Although it may no longer be a beach getaway, it is still a getaway for some, which is why one man has taken it upon himself to create a search and rescue operation at Red Sands.
The majority of the area is owned by hundreds of individual property owners, many who are from out of town, so the law is not easily enforced because it is private property.
Jamil Moutran is a former police officer and now owns an ATV rental store at the entrance of Red Sands. He has witnessed almost every kind of incident at the dunes. Moutran says the more he saw people being thrown off ATVs and driven out in an ambulance, the more he wanted to help.
“The pivotal moment was about two years ago,” said Moutran. “I was witness to an incident where an individual, basically his wife, died in front of him.”
According to Moutran, first responders had a hard time finding a couple who had rolled over while off-roading.
Knowing the area by heart, he says he was able to find them first. The impact haf caused the woman’s ribs to puncture her lungs, but without medical equipment or training he and the woman’s husband helplessly watched her die.
“I still remember seeing the look on this gentleman’s face. He was out there in 110 degrees and just distraught,” said Moutran.
Since that incident stemmed the idea to become Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certified. He along with his family and employees constantly receive training to assist agencies such as the Montana Vista Fire Department and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
Six months ago Moutran opened what is now a 24/7 search and rescue operation in and around Red Sands.
The service is free and currently funded by Moutran’s ATV rental store. Although he and his employees cannot enforce the law, he says their presence helps deter crime as well as illegal dumping.
Moutran says he most commonly sees incidents caused by speed, drinking and driving, or riding down slopes, which can easily be avoided by wearing a helmet and using ATV flags.
Another issue at Red Sands is that many people go out to the dunes to shoot guns, but do not use a backdrop. This causes loose bullets on trails where people can be off-roading.
Moutran hopes to partner with the County of El Paso in the future to expand their search and rescue operation.
In the meantime they are looking for volunteers who share the same passion for off roading as he and his employees do for helping people.