Man helps family out of icy river
Redlands resident Ken Goss just shrugs, not terribly impressed by decisions he made on the Colorado River that put him briefly in a hospital and might have saved a family of four outside Moab.
“I had to,” Goss replied, when asked why he chose to jump in the icy river to help a father, mother and two young children, ages 11 months and 3 years, who had flipped their raft Friday afternoon near Utah Highway 128, roughly 15 minutes east of Moab. “There was just no way I was going to be able to throw anything at them that far out,” Goss said.
Goss, 38, a former firefighter in his native Pennsylvania and now a driver for Sentinel Express, a delivery service provided by The Daily Sentinel, was headed west around 2 p.m. with family on a day trip when he said he caught a glimpse from the roadway of an overturned raft.
Goss, accompanied by his wife, Faith, sons, Michael, 15, and Ethan, 20, and daughter, Kayla, 16, among other family, pulled to the side of the road, where he could see something floating near the flipped boat.
What he eventually saw horrified him: A man floating down river near a woman struggling with a tight grip on two young children.
When Goss called out, the man screamed for help.
“I told my kids to call 911,” he said.
Salt Lake City residents Judi Broadbent and her husband, David, struggled in the waters as the mother clung to her sons, Silas, 3, and Jachin, 11 months. Judi Broadbent wrote in an e-mail to the Daily Sentinel the family’s raft overturned in a section of rapids known as the “trash compactor,” which repeatedly pulled Broadbent and her children under water.
Goss said all four were wearing life vests.
“I had a little boy in each of my arms, and I wasn’t letting go,” Judi Broadbent said. “We finally came up to the surface, only to go under again by another wave and another. We did that about four times total.”
She said her husband struggled to flip the raft, but he couldn’t, up river from his wife and children.
“David was pretty much spent from rowing the whole time, and the shock of the cold water was starting to settle in,” Judi wrote.
“We knew we had to get out of the water quickly,” she added. “I wasn’t sure how close the other rapids were to us.”
Goss, meanwhile, said he ran down a steep embankment and jumped in, swimming with the current for what he estimated to be 70 yards to catch up to the family.
“The initial plan was to swim out, flip the raft and get the babies inside and get to the shore,” he said.
Instead, the dash sapped his energy, and he consumed large amounts of river water in the process and was showing early signs of hypothermia.
“All I could do was just hang onto the raft,” he said.
“He was starting to bind up,” Judi added.
More alarming, while the oldest of the woman’s children cried loudly during the struggle, her youngest stayed silent in the mother’s arms, according to Goss.
“I thought he might be dead before we got to the shore,” he said.
“I didn’t think we were going to make it,” he said, adding he muttered a quick prayer.
David and Judi Broadbent and Goss eventually reached the raft and slowly guided it to shore. Two of Goss’s children, Kayla and Michael, met them and helped remove the children’s soaked clothes and wrapped them in dry blankets.
David was hypothermic “and so was Jachin,” Judi Broadbent wrote. “Jachin’s hands and feet were turning purple. Silas and I were cold but OK.”
Ken Goss collapsed on the side of the highway.
“I was told I was unresponsive. I can’t remember,” he said.
Another couple, which stopped on the highway to assist, drove everyone back to the Broadbents’ parked pickup, where they loaded up en route to Moab’s Allen Memorial Hospital.
The young children, along with Goss, were treated for hypothermia and released within hours.
Judi Broadbent, reached by phone Wednesday, said she has no regrets about bringing her infant and 3-year-old along rapids she and husband have navigated without incident at least 15 to 20 times.
“That’s just what we do,” she said. “We don’t stop living because we have kids.” Goss, meanwhile, drove on from the hospital with his family to one of their original destinations that day, catching Friday’s sunset at Arches National Park.
“My wife said she wished I wouldn’t get hurt trying to save other people,” Goss said. “But if it happened again today, I’d do it again.”