SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – More than 30 people had to be rescued from Lake Dillon Tuesday following a microburst with winds as strong as 55 mph. Fortunately, Colorado Parks and Wildlife along with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office were already on the water geared up for recovery training.
CPW has a special Marine Evidence Recovery Team, which for years has been assisting agencies across the state with recovery of drowning victims along with boat wreck investigations.
Tuesday, while training with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, officials were worried they might have to use those recovery tools.
“Fortunately, no injuries yesterday but we dodged some bullets,” said Kevin Kelble, a Summit County Sheriff’s ranger. “The microburst just devastated anybody on the lake all the sailboats ended up floundering, tearing sails. … Paddlers were just completely overwhelmed, flipped off their boards, flipped off their kayaks.”
CPW and the sheriff’s office picked stranded boaters from islands and towed beached boats back to docks.
At one point, there was one individual unaccounted for, later discovered back at the marina, picked up by another boater. A family with children and a dog lost their canoe and had to swim to an island. They were all wearing life vests.
While everyone was accounted for Tuesday, the number of drownings statewide is already higher the number at this time last year.
“Last year we had our deadliest year. We had 34 drownings statewide, and then this year we’ve had 10 drownings so far,” said Jim Hawkins, leader for CPW’s evidence recovery team.
It’s why the training is so critical. With Wednesday offering calmer conditions, CBS4 had the opportunity to tag along on day two of recovery training.
“We actually have three scenarios which have been based off all the incidents over the last couple of years that our team or Summit County have come across,” said Hawkins.
Using drones with sonar and digital imaging capabilities they can recover bodies at depths of 300 feet, find capsized boats to aid in investigations and more.
“We’ve trained together for years. We know each other, they’ve got a very skilled program, very talented program we have the same and so we’re blending those two together and it becomes a very powerful rescue tool for the state,” said Kelble.