On November 24, 2018, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Deputy’s Chris Eller and Steve Gresham responded to an urgent call regarding a female kayaker who fell out of her kayak in Verde River during very active rapids. Deputies found that the kayaker, in the water for nearly 30 minutes, was trapped by submerged boulders, losing strength and the ability to hold her head above the fast moving water. Unwilling to stand by while the female struggled to breathe and stay above water, both deputies removed their body armor and uniform equipment and entered the water. They made contact with the woman and kept her head above water. With assistance from Verde Valley Fire/EMT personnel, they were able to move the boulders and free the female.
It was determined the female was not injured but suffered from low core body temperature. She was treated for hypothermia and transported to the hospital for further care.
Verde Valley Fire Fighter Bryan Heisinger entered the water a short time later following the deputies and was instrumental in helping deputies free the woman.
Due to the quick thinking, decisive actions and placing themselves at personal risk so the woman would not drown in the rapidly moving waters, both deputies were responsible for saving her life. The recognition took place in the Board of Supervisors room on Fair Street, Prescott, January 28, 2019.
The body cam video is shared in nearly real time to give a sense of the rescue effort. It can be seen here:
The original media release follows –November 26, 2018
YCSO Deputies and Verde Valley Fire District crews combine efforts to complete Swift Water Rescue
On November 24, 2018, around 12:45 PM, YCSO deputies were dispatched to a call regarding a kayaker trapped in the Verde River near Thousand Trails Park just outside Cottonwood, Arizona. The 57-year-old woman, from out of state, had been knocked off her kayak and managed to get her leg stuck under a rock in a rough patch of moving water. Another kayaker was able to float down to the stranded woman, call 911 which provided GPS coordinates to arriving emergency personnel. The assisting kayaker indicated the woman had been in the water for some time and due to the cold temperature, was having a hard time staying afloat.
Deputies arrived along with personnel from the Verde Valley Fire District (VVFD) and as fire crews prepared their rescue gear, 2 deputies ran a couple hundred yards along a dry creek bed to the stranded woman’s position. At that time, the woman was on her side with only her head above water. Deputies were able reach her in the waist high water and keep her head above water while attempting to free her leg. The effort was unsuccessful due to her leg being trapped between 2 large submerged boulders.
After several minutes, VVFD crews prepared and provided a rope line to anchor the woman and prevent her from floating further down the river during the rescue. A VVFD paramedic entered the water and assisted the deputies in pulling the boulders away and freeing the woman’s legs. Paramedics immediately treated her for hypothermic shock as she had been in the water for at least 25 minutes. Although wearing a life jacket, she still had to struggle throughout the incident to keep her head above water due to the current.
She was transported to a local hospital with a below normal body core temperature but is expected to recover.
Citizens can contact the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office with information or questions at 928-771-3260 www.ycsoaz.gov