Rescuers reach hunter after he breaks through ice

A goose hunter gestures his dog away today as he waits in the Colorado River for rescue. The man fell in while retrieving a goose he shot near milemarker 24 off Interstate 70 about 1 1/2 miles west of the Acorn exit. Grand Junction Fire Department and Lower Valley Fire Department responded to the scene to rescue the man, who reportedly had been in the water for nearly 30 minutes.

Grand Junction Firefighter Ryan Jordan reaches the victim and gives him the board.

A goose hunter who fell through the ice Tuesday spent more than a half-hour in the Colorado River before being rescued. He was fortunate that two fellow hunters were across the river to call authorities for help.

Just before 1 p.m., emergency responders rushed to mile marker 24 along Interstate 70 where a frigid and slushy Colorado River winds close to the interstate. When they arrived, fowl hunters Mark Madsen and Adam Ford, both of Grand Junction, alerted responders to a man in the water on the far side of the river with whom they had been communicating and reassuring that help was on the way.

Madsen said he and Ford watched the man shoot a bird, which landed in the flowing section of the river. As the man’s dog tried in vain to retrieve the bird, he ventured closer to the edge of the frozen section along the river’s edge.

“When he got too close to the edge, the ice broke and he went in ... and just couldn’t get out,” Madsen said.

Firefighter Ryan Jordan, with the Grand Junction Fire Department, wearing an ice rescue suit and tethered to another firefighter on shore, attempted to swim the width of the river to reach the man, only to find that the length of rope was too short. Jordan swam back to the shore, made a second attempt to swim across, and eventually cut his lifeline when the river began pulling the rope farther downstream.

When Jordan finally reached the man, untethered, he gave him his emergency float and assisted him out of the water and onto the ice shelf. The rescued man—who looked to be in his 60s and was clearly exhausted—still managed to get up and walk away with assistance.

“That really surprised me, for how long he was in the river,” Madsen said.

Capt. Gus Hendricks with the Grand Junction Fire Department, who coordinated the rescue, said the man was in the water for about 35 minutes.

“The hardest part, of course, was accessing him through the ice floe. Trying to swim through that is pretty significant,” Hendricks said.

“Moving water is dangerous, whether it’s moving slow like it is now, or moving fast like it is in the spring,” Hendricks said, about the complex rescue. “It still saps your energy as you’re trying to climb out, and the cold water just amplifies that.”

The rescued man, not identified by authorities, was transported to a local hospital with symptoms of severe hypothermia, according to fire department officials. His injuries, however, were characterized as not life-threatening.

As for the rescuers, they pointed to their extensive training as essential to their success.

“You couldn’t ask for a better scenario—the swimmer was able to get out to him quick, was able to get him out of the water very quickly, and the party was in good enough condition to walk out,” Hendricks said as he and his team left the riverbank.

Content that the man dodged serious injury, Hendricks added, “That’s what I love about this job—every day it’s something different.”


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