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Accident Description


Injured kayaker rescued at Vallecito Creek

By Ann Butler , Shane Benjamin Herald staff writers

Article Last Updated: Friday, May 20, 2016

Members of La Plata County Search & Rescue and Upper Pine Fire Protection District make the final lift of a kayaker who injured his leg on Vallecito Creek on Friday aftenoon. The first lift was up the side of a gorge. He was in stable condition and on his way to Mercy Regional Medical Center by 8:30 p.m. Friday. Enlarge photo Courtesy of Dan Bender Members of La Plata County Search & Rescue and Upper Pine Fire Protection District make the final lift of a kayaker who injured his leg on Vallecito Creek on Friday aftenoon. The first lift was up the side of a gorge. He was in stable condition and on his way to Mercy Regional Medical Center by 8:30 p.m. Friday.

A kayaker with an injured leg was rescued from Vallecito Creek on Friday night at about 8:30 p.m. Members of La Plata County Search & Rescue and Upper Pine Fire Protection District finish lifting an injured kayaker up from Vallecito Creek to the campground. They still needed to take him 1½ miles to the trailhead. Members of La Plata County Search & Rescue and Upper Pine Fire Protection District finish lifting an injured kayaker up from Vallecito Creek to the campground. They still needed to take him 1½ miles to the trailhead.

“He’s part of an elite group of kayakers,” said Chief Bruce Evans of Upper Pine Fire Protection District, which collaborated with La Plata County Search and Rescue to pull the man up from the creek. “He got caught in the Trash Can area, and he swam out. When he tried to climb up, he fell, and that’s when he injured his leg pretty seriously.”

Upper Pine got the call at about 2:15 p.m., Evans said, coincidentally while the district was celebrating its two emergency medical services personnel of the year with County Commissioner Julie Westendorff. She hiked up the trail to watch them handle the rescue. “Search and rescue had to set a complex technical rigging to haul him out of the gorge,” Evans said. “They had prepared for this, setting up anchor sites in the area, and everything went essentially flawlessly.” There were 21 people on scene from the two agencies, Evans said, including a physician with Search and Rescue and two paramedics, who stabilized the kayaker, who is a Durango resident, before bringing him out. They recovered the kayak as well. “It couldn’t have been orchestrated more as a symphony,” Evans said. shane@durangoherald.com