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June 1, 2020

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Public Information Unit, 303-441-1500

Search and rescue crews spend approximately six hours assisting a five family members

One family member was swept down North St. Vrain Creek, but was uninjured

Boulder County, Colo. - At approximately 3:21 p.m. the Boulder County Communications Center received an emergency alert from a handheld GPS device near the Coulson Gulch Trail, which is located northwest of the Town of Lyons.

Five family members from Arizona and Kansas were hiking on the trail when they reached the North Saint Vrain Creek. The map showed the trail crossing the river to the south side. One of the adult female family members attempted to cross the creek, which was running high due to spring runoff. She fell into the creek and was swept downstream over three sets of waterfalls. She was able to grab onto a log and climb out of the river onto the south side of the creek bank. A female juvenile family member managed to cross to the south side of the creek. The family members on both sides of the creek decided to follow the trail to see if there was a point where they could cross and reunite. Once they realized that they could not safely cross the creek, an adult male family member activated the SOS feature on his handheld GPS device, which sent GPS coordinates to first responders.

When first responders reached the scene, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group completed what is called a highline rescue across the creek. This allowed rescuers to cross the creek on a rope, then rescuers, put the stranded hikers into rescue harnesses, rock climbing helmets and personal flotation devices. They were then hooked into the highline and pulled across the creek one at a time. Boulder Emergency Squad and Lyons Fire set up six downstream rescuers, two sets of divers and a back-up set of divers in case someone fell into the water during the rescue operation.

This is a good reminder that during spring runoff rivers and creeks can be swift moving and you should not attempt to cross them if they are running high. It only takes six inches of moving water to knock an adult off their feet. The family, thankfully, had a handheld GPS device with an SOS feature, which allowed first responders to quickly pinpoint their location.

The agencies assisting with this search and rescue included: Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Boulder Emergency Squad swift water rescue, Lyons Fire Protection District swift water rescue, Button Rock Reservoir Ranger and AMR ambulance.

The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office associated case number is: 20-2401.

*Images courtesy of Andy Amalfitano, Boulder Emergency Squad


/s/ Carrie Haverfield, Public Information Specialist