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.
“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.
“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.