Mother Dies After Saving Her Son From Drowning

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– A mother from Lakewood has died after saving her young son from drowning on a family vacation in Lake Powell.

Her co-workers told CBS4 they aren’t surprised by the mother’s sacrifice. Chelsey Russell was a well-known and well-liked attorney.

Her family was vacationing at the popular tourist destination at the Utah-Arizona border when her 2-year-old, who was not wearing a life jacket, fell off a houseboat and she went in after him.

Russell, 35, was a natural resources attorney at the downtown Denver law firm Wellborn, Sullivan, Meck & Tooley. She was looking forward to the annual trip to Lake Powell.

Chelsey Russell (credit: Wellborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley)

Chelsey Russell (credit: Wellborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley)

“She was a better mom than any other mom I’ve ever known, including myself, and she would have done anything for her kids,” said colleague Amy Seneshen.

Russell managed to keep the toddler above water for five agonizing minutes until a relative pulled him safely back onto the boat.

But by that point, Russell was unconscious. She was pulled from the water and rushed to shore at the nearby marina, where bystanders and officials performed CPR Tuesday afternoon.

After about 30 minutes, they determined they couldn’t save the woman who just rescued her son.

Chelsey Russell (credit: Wellborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley)

Chelsey Russell (credit: Wellborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley)

“She not only tried, she made sure he was okay. It doesn’t surprise me at all. She was the sort of person who was entirely unselfish,” said colleague Keith Tooley.

The sheriff said neither Russell nor her son wore life jackets. They are required for boaters under 12, according to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

The sheriff’s office was waiting for the Utah medical examiner to determine Russell’s cause of death, but her colleagues told CBS4 that she died of heart failure.

Russell leaves behind her son and a 5-year-old daughter.

“It’s the hardest message we’ve ever had to give. This is someone who touched everyone in the firm and we are really going to miss her,” said Tooley.

Her fellow attorneys told CBS4 that not only was Chelsey a superstar attorney, friend and mother, she was also an incredible athlete who recently completed a 100-mile run through Leadville.


One Comment

  1. Jennie Smith says:

    I feel a duty here to point out that a better mother, one who truly thought about the safety of her children, would 1) have thought twice, thrice, four times and changed her mind before taking TWO toddlers on a houseboat tour of one of the largest bodies of water, because even adults that swim well OFTEN drown after falling off a boat into a lake. 2) even if she didn’t have the foresight to vacation in a safer manner for her children, she MUST have known that life vests are mandatory! – in particular ones that always keep a child’s head above the water and prevent face-down position are available! and she CERTAINLY should have had such life vests on her children, and as a responsible adult, everyone on the houseboat should have been wearing one. So sorry this happened, but there is too much stupid behavior around lakes and way too many people drowning. It could easily have been the child because of her omissions. Now that it’s the mother, they call her a hero – but it didn’t need to happen at all. ~ Medical Professional many years in the E.R. and have seen many needless tragedies

    1. Dianne Rhinesmith says:

      Agreed. So sad she didn’t think, she was a beautiful lady and I’m sure well loved.

  2. Roger L. says:

    I believe that the quote from the colleague (Keith Tooley) should read – “She was the sort of person that was entirely selfless” – Unless the colleague truly believes the deceased mother to be “selfish”.

  3. Demetris King says:

    There was a special on T.V. Carbon Monoxide Silent Killer on Lake Powell. High concentrations of carbon monoxide found on Lake Powell. Carbon Monoxide levels excel rapidly due to house boat motors and generators.

  4. Demetris King says:

    God bless her family and friends. Thoughts and prayers are with you. She sounds like a hard worker and an highly motivated individual. She ran 100 miles through the Colorado Rockies, and the Boston Marathon twice. Earned a degree, and took the Bar Exam two days after giving birth to her child. She gave her life trying to save her son’s. She sounds like someone to be admired and looked up to. God bless her family and her legacy.

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