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Difficulty
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Factors Code(s)
Experienced/Inexperienced
Private/Commercial
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Accident Description


TEXT ATTACHMENTS http://themountainmail.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&SubSectionID=4&ArticleID=13830

Snagged, then spared Dramatic rescue at Riverside Park saves Fort Collins woman

By Matt Kroschel - Mail Staff Writer Arkansas River waves battered Susan Schneider, the tree branch trapping her bobbed dunking her below the surface repeatedly - and although she was aware she could die, she told herself she wouldn't let it happen. The 51-year-old Fort Collins woman was the subject of a dramatic river rescue in Salida at about 1:25 p.m. Wednesday after the inflatable kayak she was piloting went into low-hanging tree branches about 150 yards south of the lower playhole near the F Street bridge.

"I just kept yelling, trying to get help and kept praying I would survive," Schneider said from her bed at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center Wednesday afternoon. "We had gotten into our boats not five minutes before this happened," Schneider said. She was on a commercially guided eight-mile trip down a "moderate" stretch of the Arkansas south of Salida. She and her husband, Dave Leininger, rafted the Numbers stretch of the Arkansas River north of Buena Vista two days earlier and rented a tandem inflatable kayak Tuesday. "We are fairly experienced outdoor enthusiasts and have been on the river a lot over the years," Leininger told The Mountain Mail as he stood beside his wife in the hospital emergency room.

Their guide, Caden Buskist, is a longtime kayak instructor and guide for Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center. He was the person who reached Schneider, untangled her, and pulled her hypothermic body from the river. "All I remember is seeing Caden's knees and feeling him trying to get me unstuck from the tree," Schneider said. "He just kept saying to keep my head above water and 'hang in there,' but I was completely out of energy by then."

Ironically, Chaffee County Sheriff Tim Walker and several of this deputies were eating lunch in Riverside Park and heard calls for help from the river. Response was almost instantaneous. Buskist climbed onto the branch entangling Schneider and yanked her loose. She said a piece of strap from her clothing somehow became caught in a branch. After being freed, Schneider was floated downstream where Buskist swam her to the west bank.

Nearly 30 responders from multiple agencies converged upon the scene in less than a minute, eyewitnesses said. Rescuers used a rope and basket system to carry Schneider from the river up a steep embankment. She was taken by ambulance to the medical center and admitted with a low oxygen level, low core body temperature and possible water in her lungs. Schneider was listed in stable condition by 4:30 p.m. By press time Wednesday, hospital officials were unsure when she would be released. As an aside, Schneider and Leininger celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary Tuesday.

Despite the incident, the couple agreed they will continue to participate in future river activities. "If they would let me out of here tonight, I would be on the river again tomorrow," Schneider said as she smiled at her husband. The Arkansas River was flowing about 1,570 cubic feet per second in Salida, down from more than 1,850 cfs last week. Despite steady mountain snowmelt, officials believe flow will increase significantly before its peak sometime in June. Flood stage on the Arkansas River at Salida is about 7,000 cfs, but hasn't reached that level in many years.