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The original item was published from 6/7/2016 4:22:44 PM to 7/8/2016 12:05:01 PM.

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San Miguel County Sheriff News

Posted on: June 7, 2016

[ARCHIVED] Dramatic River Rescue, CPR Saves Drowning Woman

Dramatic River Rescue, CPR Saves Woman’s Life

Contact: Susan Lilly, Public Information Officer 970-729-2028

June 7, 2016 -- (San Miguel County, CO) – A Texas woman who fell overboard in a guided raft trip down the San Miguel River is alive following a cold water drowning, a dramatic rescue and CPR from a well-trained guide.

San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers received a 911 call at 11 o’clock this morning with reports of a female who was unconscious, not breathing, presumably from drowning. The caller indicated CPR was in progress.

Deputies responded to the scene which was near mm 93 on Hwy 145, as well as Search and Rescue personnel and Norwood EMS.

Deputies learned there were two rafts travelling in the San Miguel Canyon with a total of three guides and nine passengers. One of the boats (with one guide and five passengers) hit a rock and three passengers were ejected. It took a couple of minutes to successfully pull two of them back inside the boat. Meanwhile, the third, a 52 year-old female from Texas, was further away and seen attempting to swim back to the boat.

Witnesses told Deputies the woman was in the water for an estimated 5-10 minutes, travelling approximately ½ mile down the river. Water temperature at this time of year is about 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit. All passengers were wearing personal floatation devices (PFDs).

At some point a passenger was able to grab and hold the woman to the boat, and ultimately she was lifted into the raft. At this point, the guide told Deputies the woman was unconscious but still breathing.

The guide placed the woman in the “recovery position” and immediately made plans to get the boat to land. He used a strainer in the river to stop the boat near a residence and had passengers exit to call 911. One passenger got stuck in the strainer and required rescue from fellow passengers.

Meantime, the guide was tending to the female passenger in the boat who was still unconscious and had stopped breathing. The guide told Deputies he performed an estimated two cycles of CPR with rescue breathing and the woman started breathing on her own.

Undersheriff Eric Berg, who is also a paramedic, arrived to the scene at that time and was able to provide patient care and assist carrying the patient in the raft to an awaiting Norwood ambulance.

EMS assessed, treated and transported the patient to the Uncompahgre Medical Center to an awaiting medical helicopter for transport to Montrose Memorial Hospital. In addition to the cold water drowning, the woman was found to be hypothermic with orthopedic trauma. She was conscious and alert during EMS transport to the helicopter. The other passenger was evaluated by EMS and released. No other injuries were reported.

The guide, who wishes to remain unnamed, is with “RIGS – Ridgway Independent Guide Services.” Tim Patterson, RIGS owner released this statement: “We train for this extensively and do everything to avoid situations like this. In this case, the guides responded swiftly and professionally to deal with the incident. We are fortunate to have a successful outcome and appreciate their efforts.”

Sheriff Bill Masters also applauded the efforts of the guide, passengers, and the efficiency of the multiple agency response. He also wants to remind people of the dangers of the river at this time of year. “The river is ripping, it’s high and it’s dangerous. This incident shows that even with the most trained personnel, accidents happen. Be prepared. Make certain you keep children away from the embankments of swollen rivers and tributaries.”

Undersheriff Eric Berg also wants to extend his appreciation to three citizens at the Beaver ramp who helped restrict river traffic to control the scene.


The San Miguel Sheriff’s Office, located in Telluride, Colorado and established in 1883, serves 7,800 residents and countless visitors across the 1,288 square miles of San Miguel County. Sheriff Bill Masters has been serving as the county’s elected Sheriff since 1980.

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